The movie is based in fictional Pacashau, a city that is a victim of a poor economy. Businesses close often, and those with jobs are in constant fear that their next paycheck may be their last. The local church choir is a source of inspiration, as they represent Divinity Church annually in singing competitions.
Too bad no one in the group gets along, and they have overwhelming personal problems. The sudden death of their choir director, Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson), results in Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) at the helm, much to the chagrin of his widow, G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton). In addition to the tension at the church, Vi is raising two teenagers — a sassy Olivia (Keke Palmer) and autistic Walter (Dexter Darden) — by herself, because her husband is serving in the Army.
G.G.’s troublesome grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan), shows up out the blue, although his reputation beats him wherever he goes. Randy’s insistence of jazzing up the choir selections and attraction to Olivia gives Vi even more reasons to be annoyingly passive-aggressive toward GiGi.
Regardless, the choir from a poor town has to make everyone feel good, so they grin and bear it. There is a competition to win, after all.
This movie is exactly what you think it will be — cute and something not to be taken too seriously. Although it was surprisingly funnier than I expected, there were still some hiccups along the way.
Queen Latifah’s character is inconsistent. She is supposed to be a leader, but she offends or angers most of the people close to her. G.G. get the brunt of it, which is on full display in a scene shot at Howard’s, a restaurant in Smyrna.
There are also too many storylines: Vi and G.G., Vi and Olivia, Olivia and Randy, choir against choir, a really awkward love story involving two choir members, bacon and Asian men … and on and on. Some were good for a laugh, but others were too much.
Thank goodness for Parton — all of her. From the big hair to her … let’s just stop at the hair … I couldn’t get enough of her. Lines such as, “Trying to fool me is like trying to sneak sunlight past a rooster” might warrant eye rolls but when Parton says it, you’re somehow OK with it. Although her facial expression stayed the same throughout the film and her choir robe was form fitted, G.G. was just hard to dislike. (Psst: It’s because Dolly Parton is hard to dislike.)
The highlights of the film were the musical numbers. Palmer, who is also a recording artist, was able to put her skills on display through a variety of songs.
Some of the stars attended the screening at Atlantic Station where they spoke about the merging of hip-hop and gospel music, which is also a theme of the film. Award-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin was in attendance. He has a cameo in the film, portraying the competing choir’s director.
Franklin is known for this style of gospel music, and acknowledges criticism he has received, saying, “People want to make sure things are done the right way.” However, Palmer said regardless of the beat, the message of the music is the same. She said “just because you are dancing and being live” doesn’t mean that you aren’t worshiping God.
However, this movie isn’t making a hard statement on religion. It’s meant to be inspirational, which it is (once you look past its corniness).
The competition has an “American Idol” type of fervor, so expect high energy from the performances. East Cobb resident Isabella Amara also makes an appearance in the film with a children’s choir.
Although you’ll probably guess how the story will end, you will still manage to have an enjoyable experience. It’s not a great movie, but it is bearable.