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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Unlikely duet

Queen Latifah, Parton team up for ‘Joyful Noise’

John Anderson I Newsday

NEW YORK – Looked at a certain way, the two stars of the new musical comedy “Joyful Noise” arrived at the movie from utterly different directions. One was raised “dirt poor” in Tennessee, the other in the urban Northeast. One grew up to be a regular at the Grand Ol’ Opry, the other played the Apollo Theater. One flourished in country music, the other made her name in hardcore hip-hop, sharing the stage with the likes of Public Enemy.

On the other hand, they both like bling. They’re both show-biz institutions. They both have so many spinoff enterprises, they could be amusement parks (and, in one case, is). They both made it in stringently male-dominated genres, to the point that audiences have probably forgotten what it was that made them famous in the first place. And they still love music.

“I can’t imagine a world without it,” says Queen Latifah.

“It’s what I’m all about,” says Dolly Parton.

Music runs through “Joyful Noise” and carries along with it the inspirational story line of director Todd Graff’s third tuneful feature (following critical faves “Camp” and “Bandslam”).

Although economic hard times have hit tiny Pacashau, Ga., folks are praying that the local Divinity Church Choir will win the national Joyful Noise Competition, despite rancor within the ranks: Newly appointed director Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) is old school, while the spunky G.G. Sparrow (Parton) wants to stir things up. Stirring other things up is G.G.’s rebellious but musical grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan), who has an eye for Vi Rose’s beautiful daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer).

The heat between Randy and Olivia is causing even more of a chill between Vi and G.G. Can this competition be saved?

Take a wild guess.

No, nothing is particularly startling about the plotline to “Joyful Noise,” but what’s a bit surprising is how long it’s taken for Latifah and Parton to intersect. Both are ubiquitous cultural entities – Latifah has had a talk show, done voice-overs, appeared in such features as “Just Wright” and “Valentine’s Day,” and is a spokesmodel for Cover Girl cosmetics. Parton hasn’t done a big-screen film in some time, but between her regular appearances on “Hannah Montana,” writing music for the Broadway adaptation of “Nine to Five,” her innumerable TV cameos and her entrepreneurial enterprises – such as Dollywood, Dollywood Splash Mountain and the Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction (locations in Branson, Mo., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.) – she’s a known quantity to multiple generations.

“People always said, ‘You should do something with Queen Latifah,’ ” Parton said in New York. “Really, they did! They’d say, ‘You’ve got the same kind of thing, you’re friendly, you’re out there.’ ”

“She’s the genuine article,” Latifah said of Parton. “And I think that’s what people get about both of us. People feel they can come up and hug us. I don’t know what that is, that ‘relatable’ thing, but it’s just us.”

“And hopefully it will work on screen,” said Parton.

“And in the sequel,” quipped Latifah.