'Joyful Noise' deserves no stars. None.

 
 
Updated 1/12/2012 6:49 PM
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  • GG (Dolly Parton), left, and Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) take their church choir to a national contest in Todd Graff's morally bankrupt musical comedy "Joyful Noise."

    GG (Dolly Parton), left, and Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) take their church choir to a national contest in Todd Graff's morally bankrupt musical comedy "Joyful Noise."

If all you care about in a movie is a bunch of good songs and you're not remotely bothered by suggestions of white supremacy, appallingly mixed moral messages, tasteless jokes and vapid characters, then you should stop reading this review, go to "Joyful Noise" and enjoy its toe-tapping tunes.

(Assuming that these readers have done what I asked and departed, that means you must be a filmgoer who does care about the more substantive content of movies. Let us continue.)

"Joyful Noise" is part "Footloose," part "Glee," part "Sister Act," part "Hoosiers" and all entirely messed up.

Written and directed by the morally and thematically confused Todd Graff, "Joyful Noise" begins with the director (Kris Kristofferson) of the Divinity Church choir in dinky Pacashau, Ga., dying of a heart attack on the altar during rehearsal.

(Don't worry. He returns later as a hallucination who can't sing or dance very well.)

That might have been a sign the movie should stop right there. If not that scene, then maybe the one in which a choir member dies in bed after having sex with a fellow choir member.

But no, the director's rich widow GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton, whose cosmetic enhancements are freakishly frightening) is miffed that she can't inherit the director's job.

It goes to her rival Vi Rose (Queen Latifah), a conservative mother with a budding, 16-year-old daughter Olivia (the charismatic Keke Palmer) and an ostracized, Aspergers-stricken teen son Walter (Dexter Darden) who laments that he just wants to be normal.

The death of GG's hubby couldn't come at a worse time.

The semifinals of the national Joyful Noise contest -- open to church-sponsored choirs -- is fast approaching and they've got to knuckle down to defeat their four-time-winning rivals from Detroit.

The pastor (Courtney B. Vance), one of those men of God who have the racy, boisterous personality of undertakers, refuses to let the choir do anything but traditional songs.

None of that newfangled rock-inspired gospel stuff.

Everything changes with the arrival of GG's high school dropout grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan), clearly a bad-boy rebel minted in the style of Ren from "Footloose."

Except that there's nothing randy about Randy. He's a sweetie who, in Graff's script, becomes a superior white savior for the poor minorities in the story.

Who proves to be the best guy to date the lovely Olivia, even better than the resentful black teen Lothario Manny (Paul Woofolk)?

White Randy.

Who fixes Vi Rose's broken marriage to her military husband (Jesse L. Martin) and re-establishes Olivia's connection to her father?

White Randy.

Who is the only person in Georgia who can help Walter come out of his shell and bring forth the confident musician he is deep inside?

White Randy.

Who tames that troubled, resentful Manny and brings him into the choir so he can attain self-actualization?

White Randy.

Who's the only guy who can rearrange all those moldy spirituals into toe-tapping works of joy and energy?

Yep, same guy.

Like a standard-issue sports movie (say, the obviously referenced "Hoosiers") "Joyful Noise" preaches the gospel of winning, not spiritual enlightenment or prayerful worship.

"This town needs a winner!" GG says to her fellow singers after threatening to pull her financial support from the church unless the pastor agrees to renounce his convictions against secularizing the choir music.

He does, apparently because money trumps faith.

Later, Vi Rose reverses her similar pro-traditional stand when she sees that her stuffy choir isn't popular with Los Angeles audiences, and instantly throws her choir into "Glee" mode to save the day.

Apparently popularity trumps faith, too.

In the movie's most hilarious misstep, Vi Rose's choir goes up for the championship against a group of talented unknown youngsters who magically have arrived at the finals without ever being reported on in the media.

Vi Rose urges her singers to crush the kids. Crush them!

"Jesus said it best, 'Suffer the little children!'" she shouts. "You can be a Big Brother some other time!"

I haven't even touched on how Randy and Olivia turn a church song into a sexy romantic ballad, or Vi Rose's unmotherly and inappropriate comments about her daughter in a pretty dress.

But, hey, you gotta give Graff's movie credit.

The songs sure sound nice.