When Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah are singing gospel and strutting for God under the good-time direction of Todd Graff (his Camp is one of the best musicals you never saw), Joyful Noise goes down easy. Sadly, Dolly and the Queen are forced to speak dialogue that would choke two Meryl Streeps. Plastic surgery jokes (at Parton’s expense) and liposuction gags (aimed at Latifah) have the subtlety of an anvil. Set in Pacashau, Georgia, the movie casts the two stars as rivals to head the Divinity Church choir as they travel to Los Angeles for the nationals. Or is it the sectionals. I can never tell what’s at stake, just like I can’t on Glee, the flailing TV series this derivative movie so wants to treat as a kissin’ cousin. Lots of talented young singers decorate the scenery, notably Jeremy Jordan (late of Broadway’s failed Bonnie & Clyde but soon-to-open in Newsies)who has vocal and acting chops that shine even in this bucket of Glee Goes Gospel cornpone.
• Video: Peter Travers Reviews ‘The Devil Inside’ and ‘Joyful Noise’ in ‘At the Movies With Peter Travers’