Other prominently featured songs include the Left Banke’s "Walk Away Renee" and Paul McCartney’s "Maybe I’m Amazed"—not exactly gospel-music staples, nor Gospel-centric in their content. Also, in a moment played as lighthearted, Randy gets Walter (Dexter Darden, Cadillac Records) to come out of his shell by singing a duet with him of a song that has the chorus, “I’m in love with a stripper.”

More troubling is the film’s hopping over the line with joking references to sexual sin. A subplot deals with two adult choir members who complain about their lack of a love life before embracing each other and (off screen) sleeping together. The next morning, the woman finds her lover dead, leading to a recurring joke about her reputation in bed. She ponders whether God might be punishing her for having sex out of wedlock, but the film sidesteps the very idea that God has any concern about sexual purity. Even worse is the script’s effort to paint stereotypes of faithful living as a straitjacket. When Randy can’t get Olivia to dance at a nightclub, he persuades her to loosen up by asking her, “Do you want to be a church girl the rest of your life? There’s so much more to you than that.” Olivia’s mom might be strict, but being a “church girl” is the least of Olivia’s problems.

Writer/director Todd Graff, who wrote Bandslam and the American remake of the Dutch thriller The Vanishing, has fashioned a story with a few laughs but with too many familiar character types and a predictably “inspirational” outcome. He would have been wise to drop the sexual humor and the winking at out-of-wedlock sex—content that will make family audiences uncomfortable.

That makes Joyful Noise a missed opportunity. Despite a decent performance from Queen Latifah—the most sympathetic character in the story, and the one who seems most earnest about her faith—the movie is too often flat, even offensive, when it should have been soaring and uplifting. Had Joyful Noise emphasized the Gospel for its desired sense of inspiration rather than relying on several “gospel”-style arrangements of secular songs for the same effect, it would have tapped emotions that would have made the film more appealing. Christian audiences shouldn’t settle for this.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: “My God”; “a-s”; “b-tch”; “hell yeah”; boys sing a song with the chorus, “I’m in love with a stripper”; “s-it”; “stupid”; “grow a set”; “hell”; “rat’s a-s”; multiple uses of “bull-hit”; “da-n skippy”; “screw.”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: None; a nightclub scene with dancing, but no alcohol seen.
  • Sex/Nudity: Randy tells Olivia they should “make some babies”; Olivia tells Randy, “Don’t look at my butt,” then shakes her rear end as she walks away; a man and woman kiss and grab each other, and in the next scene, the woman serves the man breakfast in bed; she says she’ll be known as the woman who had sex and made her man die; later she wonders if God was punishing her for having sex out of wedlock; a character replies that if God killed people for that reason, most men would be struck dead while in college; a sexy dance in a nightclub, after Randy asks Olivia, “Do you want to be a church girl the rest of your life? There’s so much more to you than that”; Walter tells Randy his Asperberger’s syndrome doesn’t allow him to know when people are coming on to him; Randy is shown shirtless; kissing.
  • Violence/Crime: G.G. pulls a gun from a cabinet and levels it at a man she thinks is an intruder; Randy walks into a tree limb; a woman is surprised to discover the man in her bed has died; boys have a fist fight; G.G. throws a drink in Vi Rose’s face; Vi Rose throws food at G.G., and the two fight.
  • Religion/Morals: Several mentions of God, and of being God’s instrument; a funeral scene and a wedding; a preacher says God judges a man on his faith and the contents of his heart; Walter wonders why God made him the way he is, and says he hates God; gospel music is the background for the film’s story, but several of the songs are gospel-style renditions of secular numbers.
  • MarriageG.G. has been married three times; Vi Rose’s husband left her to raise their children on her own.

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.