4.24.2012

Joyful Noise Recap or "Why Latifa is still Queen"

Dear Phil,

Three things I love:

1. Queen Latifa
2. Dolly Parton
3. Choir musicals.

It's like the movie-making gods knew this about me and spoke Joyful Noise into being...


Let's get into it...

Dolly plays an outspoken, world-wise grandmother whose generous financial donations keep the church afloat through the recession and encourage the pastor to turn a blind eye to her more audacious ways, like say, custom tailoring her choir robe...


Latifa plays a pious, old school churchgoer who looks askance at Dolly's fondness for cosmetic surgery.  She has two teenagers -- Walter (whom I'm assuming is not blind, but inexplicably wears 24-7 sunglasses Stevie Wonder style), and the girl who played Akeelah (and the Bee), which sort of makes me wish that Laurence Fishburne were around to quiz her on SAT vocab.

Dolly and Queen Latifa are small town rivals that sing in the same church choir directed by Dolly's husband, Kris Kristofferson.

Sidenote: Whenever I see Kris Kristofferson, I can't stop picturing him in a lumberjack shirt in Arnold Schwarzenegger's directorial debut -- the made-for-TV remake of Christmas in Connecticut co-starring Dyan Cannon and Tony Curtis...

 


I know.  Somewhere Barbara Stanwyck is turning in her grave.

Speaking of the grave, the small town is turned upside down when Kris Kristofferson suffers an unexpected heart attack (I think it was a heart attack.  I may not have totally been paying attention right then.  Anyway, he dies) so the pastor snubs Dolly and appoints Latifa as the new choir director.  Everything might have been business as usual -- Dolly quietly stewing over Latifa's conservative choral choices, Latifa quietly judging Dolly for her cleavage -- were it not for Dolly's black sheep grandson (improbably named Randy) showing up at choir practice, catching the end of Akeelah's version of "Man in the Mirror"(which, by the way, is awesome), and using the word "bitch" in a house of God.  Latifa is scandalized...


She tosses Randy out of choir practice, but not before he's made eyes at Akeelah (sans Bee).

Inexplicably, they all end up at the pastor's house for lunch together -- a bit of a filler scene in which, bizarrely, Dolly takes a shot at Latifa about her husband re-enlisting in the army (can we all agree there's a list of things not to get in someone's face about?).  Latifa quite rightly suggests that Dolly sweep in front of her own door and make the world a cleaner place.  Meanwhile, Akeelah and sexy grandson are busy touching fingers across the butter dish when suddenly, Latifa's son Walter has a meltdown.



It turns out Walter has Asperger's (which semi-explains the Stevie-style sunnies).  Randy sweeps in to calm Walter down and randomly offers to give him piano lessons.  Latifa is all for it until she discovers that the first song in Randy's curriculum is T-Pain's "I'm in love with a stripper."

Sexy grandson Randy decides to join the choir to get closer to Akeelah who's playing hard to get (Akeelah: "Don't look at my butt. I'm a good girl.").  Predictably, Latifa is against it, but out of nowhere, the choir -- who has apparently been meeting in secret behind the Queen's back to sneak in extra rehearsals for the state finals of something or other (it's kind of unclear what the actual competition involves) -- throws their support behind Randy and scores him an audition.

And actually, damn, he's not bad. Who is this kid? I'm googling him. He sort of has a Ricky Martin-Justin Bartha love child vibe...


...which makes it nearly impossible to imagine that he's related to Dolly Parton by blood, but whatever.

Randy and Akeelah blow everyone away with their duet of "Maybe I'm Amazed" and just like that they're one of those Disney Channel musical couples, except with more leering...


One of the primary problems with this movie is that there are too many random subplots that end up muddy-ing the central plot waters.  Let's take this couple for example...


She's lonely and single and lives in a double wide; he's lonely and single and quote, "hasn't been with anyone in three years." You hear almost nothing about them for most of the movie (save the occasional glimpse of them bobbing around in choir robes in the background of a shot), when suddenly, one night after rehearsal they find themselves thrown together on the steps of the church.

Then, this happens...




She tries to wake him with bacon...


She checks his pulse...


And...


Yeah...I don't know.

Meanwhile, Akeelah sneaks out to go to a club so Randy can teach her how to add a little more booty-shakin' to their choral numbers. I think it goes without saying that she's the only girl there in a beaded cardigan...


There's almost no point to this scene except to introduce the local high school jackass who wants to compete with Randy for Akeelah's affection. (I told you, too many subplots).

Cut to random shot of Latifa changing bedpans at a convalescent hospital.  It turns out this is her day job (Subplot #17).

Meanwhile, Randy discovers Walter sitting alone the roof after random high school bullies filled his locker with poop (subplot #26).   Randy decides to forgo their regular piano lesson and take Walter to a hidden canyon to throw rocks in the reservoir and sing improv'd vocal runs.  Cut to Randy discovering that, predictably, Walter has amazing pipes (somewhat related subplot #38).

Enter local high school jackass who's chosen this touching moment of self-discovery to get in Randy's face about his relationship with Akeelah...


 Randy throws down, Walter forgets his no-touching rule and joins the fray, local high school jackass runs off crying and bloody, and Randy and Walter bask in the glow of a warm fraternal embrace.  You beat one guy's ass together and suddenly you're bromigos for life.

Back at home, Latifa is furious about the ass-beating and forbids Akeelah and Walter from seeing Randy outside the choir.  This embargo lasts about two seconds before Akeelah is over at Dolly's getting a little...er, randy.


Randy decides that Akeelah needs an all-night, seize-the-day roadtrip to the army base where Mr. Latifa is stationed for a little daddy/daughter time.

Distressed by Akeelah's sudden disappearance and her showdown with Walter about his Asberger's (Walter: "Why do you love God?  God made me this way.  If you loved me, you'd hate him!"), Latifa performs a heartbreaking version of "Fix Me Jesus" to an empty church that, yes, is a little bit Tyler Perry movie, but I don't even mind because it's so amazing...


Sometimes, I forget how badass the Queen can be.

At the army base, it turns out Daddy Latifa is actually Jesse L. Martin (who, for the record, I love so much).  He and Akeelah have a heart to heart in which JLM alludes to some vague marital problems with Latifa (subplot #42).


Sidenote: Can it be possible that Jesse L. Martin has the only non-singing role in this musical?  The mind boggles.  

Latifa gets a phone call from someone (Randy? Akeelah? JLM?) and goes to get Akeelah (unclear why Randy can't just drive her back the way they came).  Latifa and Akeelah have a meltdown on the drive home which results in Latifa once again forbidding her to see Randy. Inexplicably, Akeelah agrees, and leaves Randy standing alone on the dirt road yelling, "Don't be crazy! I love you!"


Yeah.....Randy is so distraught he tries to run away from home, but Grandma Dolly catches up with him on the road and gives him a pep talk that includes encouraging him to "grow a set."  Randy agrees to return with Dolly only to find that in their absence, Latifa has quit the choir and the pastor has banned Randy from singing in the state finals in order to guard the choir from his secular influence.   Hmmm.  Pastor Courtney B. Vance is pretty prudish for a man whose wife looks like this...


But, anyway...

Dolly's fired up that Latifa bailed on the choir and storms off to confront her at her second day job: diner waitress (subplot #62).  There follows a Dolly/Latifa diner showdown in which Latifa puts Dolly on blast about her plastic surgery, Dolly douses Latifa with a glass of water...


 ...pelts her with rolls from a customer's bread basket, and -- I sware to God -- goes several rounds of "You're so old..."

Dolly: You're so old your 40 going on 100!
Latifa: You're so old, you read the Bible to reminisce.

In a fit of rage, Latifa gets Dolly in a headlock, points to a customer who's filming it on his iphone and says, "Yeah, put that online."  I kid you not.


Latifa gets fired (which she seems weirdly surprised by for a woman who just noogied another woman in her place of employment).  Dolly goes home to drown her sorrows and ends up singing a duet with her dead husband (largley spoken word on Kris Kristopherson's part).


Meanwhile, despite their previous argument, Akeelah gets Latifa back to the choir with a well placed ultimatum: "If you quit now, you're quitting on God."  And just like that, the choir (sans Randy who's still banned) heads off to LA for the finals.  The choir checks out the LA concert hall and loses their minds over the seats, which is oddly similar to that scene in Hoosiers where Hickory gets their first look at the State Championship arena...


Back at home, Dolly's still looking for a way to get Randy back in the competition without disqualifying the whole choir (the choir needs to be sponsored by a church to compete -- that may or may not have been mentioned a few scenes back, but who could pay attention when Dolly and Latifa were dousing each other with ice water?).  Thankfully, dead Kris Kristofferson comes through with a little last minute inspiration -- Dolly gets herself ordained online and threatens to sponsor the choir herself.  The pastor caves and the three of them high tail it to the airport.

In Los Angeles, the previous truce between Akeelah and Latifa is over and the tension escalates to a full scale screaming match in the hotel hallway that involves Akeelah accusing Latifa of hating her for being pretty...


Thankfully, Dolly, Pastor CBV and Randy arrive on the scene to save the day.  Dolly corners Akeelah in the dressing room to dispense some much needed pearls of wisdom disguised as a makeup tutorial...


You know what they say, Akeelah, when life gives you lemons, do a makeover.


The makeover totally works (we were foolish to doubt Dolly and her curling iron).  Latifa and Akeelah reconcile...


Akeelah and Randy reconcile...


 The choir has a brief, but intense moment of self-doubt when they discover that their primary competition is a choir full of children.  Depression starts to set in, but Latifa climbs on a soda crate and gives them all a pep talk that essentially boils down to: "Just because they're cute doesn't mean we can't beat their tiny asses."

The choir takes the stage and kicks things off with one of their more traditional gospel songs.  The crowd is stoic.  Latifa calls a halt to the whole thing and makes the choir shed their robes Sister-Act-2-style.  De-robed and sexy, the choir launches into a re-worked, vaguely spiritual version of the Usher/Ludacris/Lil John collabo "Yeah!" (sample lyrics: "Up in the church with my homies/trying to get a little praise on/keep it down on the low key") followed by a segue into Chris Brown's "Forever"  (Sample lyric as sung by Dolly: "It's like I've waited my whole life/for this one night/it's gonna be me, you and the good Lord/'cause we've only got one night/sing for his pleasure/sing for his Son.")


 I think it goes without saying that this kind of artistry and pop cultural subversion left the judges no choice but to dismiss the competition outright and award Latifa first place immediately.  Even Pastor Courtney B. Vance is psyched...


Amazing how winning a somewhat ambiguous gospel choir competition will tie up all the loose subplot ends.  The choir returns to town in triumph...


This lady gets a different Asian boyfriend with lower blood pressure...


And Jesse L. Martin comes home from war...


God works in mysterious ways, y'all.

xo,
Lindy

3 comments:

  1. OMG this is amazing, you've got some talent Lindy Parker-Vega. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds AMAZING. I love Dolly and Latifa, I love "Yeah," and I love Sister Act 2. I have to see this move.

    ReplyDelete

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