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A Commentary on JOYFUL NOISE and NEW YEAR’S EVE or: Being Okay With Not Being the Target Audience

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After sitting through a double-feature of Warner Bros\’ recent Joyful Noise and New Year\’s Eve Blu-ray releases, I could feel the rage creeping up my spine, and I was on the verge of committing hara-kiri until I experienced what most recovering alcoholics would call, “a moment of clarity.”

These movies are not for me.

Warner Bros. didn\’t develop them with me in mind; directors Todd Graff (Joyful Noise) and Garry Marshall (New Year\’s Eve) didn\’t direct them with me in mind; and their respective casts sure as hell didn\’t act out their parts with the mixture of nuance and subtle theatricality that I like my on-screen thespians to possess.  Taken separately or together, the two films are as alien to me as I\’m sure Times Square would be to a Masai hunter.

And that\’s not a bad thing, despite what conventional movie studio wisdom might say.  Your classic studio CEO is always on the search for that four-quadrant whale; a 4QW appeals, ostensibly, to every demographic: young and old, male and female (I\’m not 100% sure that those groupings constitute the exact four quadrants under discussion, but they seem plausible enough, right?).  The studios go into most of their ventures hoping to capture all four, and thus began the myth that a good movie is good if everyone enjoys it, and that\’s nonsense.  Should the fifteen-year-old female teenybopper be expected to enjoy Saw?  Should we force the vertigo-afflicted to see any of Paul Greengrass\’ movies (the last two Bournes, Green Zone)?  We may make movies for everyone, but we can\’t always do so at the same time.

Want a particularly absurd example of recent movie marketing trying to force a square film into an all-inclusive round audience?  Google any of the recent interviews/articles about the upcoming Prometheus.  The film itself is a dark sci-fi drama about a group of scientists who discover that God does not exist (and, true to form, that our alien progenitors have less-than friendly intentions for us), but the Fox marketing team is doing its damndest to smooth over that fact, filling cast and crew alike with stories about how Prometheus has all the comedy, romance, and fun-filled action that Friday-night crowds crave.

That assumed homogeneity certainly spills over into the movie criticism world.  A movie critic offers his or her opinion, which always boils down into:

  • “X Movie played to my preferences, so I liked it.”
  • “X Movie didn\’t play to my preferences, so I didn\’t like it.”

Encountering movies like Joyful Noise and New Year\’s Eve is dispiriting for a critic of my disposition; early into their runtimes, I realized my “reviews” would just be angry screeds.  And for what?  For not shooting the drama with a “Friday Night Lights” aesthetic?  For not having enough blood?  For not being related (however tangentially) to the Star Wars universe?

For not, essentially, being my kind of movie, and that just isn\’t fair.  Regarding Joyful Noise: just because I do not get enthused over a gospel-themed dramedy about two choir leaders (Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah) getting into a feud over their choir\’s proper musical direction does not mean others won\’t like it (in fact, my dissent probably rocks the minority column).  Same goes for New Year\’s Eve; I may look at it as a beyond-dumbed-down version of the all-star ensemble comedies that Robert Altman did so well (Nashville, A Wedding, A Prairie Home Companion), while those non-me\’s out there may enjoy the movie for uniting such disparate contemporary luminaries as Bon Jovi, Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and that Jewish girl from “Glee.”  Who am I to try and de-legitimize these people\’s feelings?

So, yeah: I could take Joyful Noise down a peg or two (or three) for saddling the very funny Parton with a shrill Southern stereotype, or for its creepy, age-inappropriate romantic subplot between Keke Palmer and the hanging-around-the-high-school-a-decade-after-he-graduates Jeremy Jordan.  I could blast New Year\’s Eve for only presenting a sitcom-friendly worldview, or for never getting any juice out of its absurdly talented cast other than a certain dread amusement at the variety of players assembled (seriously, this movie is to cinema what the Now! That\’s What I Call Music CD compendiums are to the recording industry: a snapshot – good, bad, and indifferent – of the performing world, circa 2011).  I could, but I won\’t.  I\’m feeling pretty Zen right now.  You know if you\’re the target audience, and if so, please enjoy.  No one can take that from you, least of all me.

Although I do have one small request: when you go to the movie theater, please refrain from texting during the show.  I know you think you\’re probably being quiet and unobtrusive, but let me tell you – people in space can see the light off your iPhone screen.

As Blu-ray/DVD/UV Digital Copy combo packs go, Joyful Noise looks and sounds best; with a clean image and an aggressive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.  New Year\’s Eve isn\’t as visually/sonically impressive (that may be more a result of Garry Marshall\’s flat staging), but the disc is fine, technically.

For features, Joyful Noise has extended song take, a deleted scene, a live performance of “He\’s Everything,” and four fluffy featurettes (“Spotlight on a Song,” Inspiration of Joyful Noise,” “Make Some Noise,” and “Leading Ladies”).  New Year\’s Eve offers more of the same: a sleep Garry Marshall commentary; three EPK featurettes (“Magic of Times Square,” “New Year’s Eve Secrets of the Stars,” and “Jon Bon Jovi and Lea Michele Rock New Year’s Eve”); a gag reel; and some deleted scenes.

Joyful Noise and New Year’s Eve are available on Blu-ray Combo Packs, DVD, and for download on May 1st.  Click HERE for Joyful Noise\’s Amazon\’s listing, and HERE for New Year’s Eve\’s Amazon\’s listing.

-Note: Follow New Year\’s Eve on Twitter with the hashtag #NEWYEARSEVE or mark it on Facebook with @newyearsevemovie.

  • flieralls

    “Jewish girl from Glee”? WTFF? Her father is Jewish, her mother is Catholic, and she was raised Catholic. If film critics are so hot on Jew labeling, why don’t they start with some actual, full-blooded Jews, like Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, etc.