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Joseph: King of Dreams
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by Jaycie

"The Lord was with Joseph. Too bad DreamWorks wasn't."
3 stars

The Prince of Egypt set the bar for 2D animation about as high as it will ever go. Not only was it visually gorgeous, it had top-notch casting, a beautiful soundtrack and a creative but faithful spin on a very challenging story. It's almost unfair to compare it to its own prequel, but what choice have we?

DreamWorks released Joseph: King of Dreams directly to video two years after Prince, likely in the hopes of creating a series of acclaimed animated Old Testament adaptations. It's a worthy goal, especially since the only people doing so with any degree of quality that decade were the team behind Rugrats. (Seriously, if you haven't seen the Passover episode, get on it right now.) Whatever resources they put into Prince that made it the epic it became, Joseph deserved more than the half it got. Prince was made to win Academy Awards; Joseph was made for Sunday School.

I'll assume you know the plot, but just in case: Joseph (Ben Affleck) is the youngest of Jacob's (Richard Herd) then 11 sons, as well as the smartest. After a couple of somewhat boastful retellings of his dreams, his jealous brothers engineer a plot to sell him into slavery in Egypt, where his wits help him become the trusted servant of Potiphar (James Eckhouse), the captain of Pharaoh's (Richard McGonagle) guards. Potiphar's wife Zuleika (Judith Light) takes a liking of her own to Joseph, but reacts so poorly to his rejection of her advances that he ends up imprisoned, only brought out to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. He does this so well that he becomes a top government official, charged with storing food for an impending famine, which leads to the reunion with his brothers he never wanted.

There's plenty of drama in the original story of Joseph - not as much as Exodus, of course, but enough. It shouldn't be as difficult to turn into a movie as it so often has been. At least this movie isn't half as ridiculous as Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical, which makes Jesus Christ Superstar look like the 2012 Cabaret revival. But it does feel phoned-in, especially compared to its predecessor, as if DreamWorks had the idea to make Joseph all along but hadn't regained their creative juices in time to make it well.

There are hints of the old Prince quality here and there, though. A brief glimpse of Joseph painting a scene from Canaan on the wall will instantly remind you of Moses' moment of revelation, but it is a brief glimpse indeed. "Better Than I" is by far the film's best song, but it pales in comparison to "When You Believe", its closest counterpart. None of Joseph's other songs are much better than anything you'd hear at weekly services, least of all "Bloom," appropriately named for sharing opening consonants with "bland." And Affleck's voice work is unexpectedly grating; sure, he's playing a teenager, but so was Val Kilmer throughout much of Prince, and he still sounded like a man of God-to-be. Yes, I just said Val Kilmer sounded like a man of God. Shoot me.

I suppose I can't really fault DreamWorks for making a direct-to-video movie that looks and sounds like a direct-to-video movie, and a good one by those standards. So why didn't they consider Joseph worthy of a theatrical release? Would they have given the same treatment to Adam and Eve? Or Noah? Or Esther? We may never know. But a DreamWorks take on any of those stories would have been superior to a thousand Ridley Scott interpretations.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9124&reviewer=432
originally posted: 11/28/15 11:53:33
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User Comments

3/01/19 Broseph: KIng of Memes Surprisingly better than PoE. Less heavyhanded, with more emphasis on family than on God. 5 stars
9/16/04 tatum A perfect example of straight to video sequelitis 2 stars
3/26/04 Sean Scanlan Some scenes saves this so-so movie 3 stars
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  01-Apr-2003 (G)
  DVD: 26-Oct-2004



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