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"JOSEPH: KING OF DREAMS"
(2000) (voices of Ben Affleck, Mark Hamill) (Not Rated)

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QUICK TAKE:
Animated/Drama: Sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous half-brothers, a young man turns adversity into opportunity in this adaptation of the story from the book of Genesis.
PLOT:
Joseph (voice of BEN AFFLECK, singing voice of DAVID CAMPBELL) is the youngest son of Jacob (RICHARD HERD), a sheepherder who believed that his new wife, Rachel (voice of MAUREEN McGOVERN), was unable to have any children. As a result, Jacob considers Joseph a miracle child, and thus doesn't treat him like his many other sons, including Judah (voice of MARK HAMILL) and Simeon (voice of STEVEN WEBER), who are jealous of their younger brother and the preferential treatment he receives.

Despite that and his ability to interpret dreams and their forecasting of the future, Joseph longs to be with and be treated like his brothers. Unfortunately, that's his undoing as unbeknownst to Jacob, they decide to sell him into slavery. Taken from Canaan to Egypt, he's sold to Potiphar (voice of JAMES ECKHOUSE), a high-ranking official working for the Pharaoh (voice of RICHARD McGONAGLE), to be used as domestic help rather than as a laborer.

Although he quickly impresses Potiphar, when he refuses the amorous advances of that man's wife, Zuleika (voice of JUDITH LIGHT), she wrongly accuses him of an injustice and he ends up being sent to prison. As the years pass and he's befriended by Asenath (voice of JODI BENSON), who sneaks him food, Joseph learns the meaning of forgiveness and is eventually called to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh.

Successfully doing just that and saving the people of Egypt from a severe famine, the Pharaoh appoints Joseph as the second most powerful man in the land. As he then gets on with his life, not believing the good fortune that's come his way, he must contend with his brothers when they unexpectedly return into his life.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
When one sees or hears that a given title has been earmarked as a straight to video release, several thoughts usually come to one's mind. One is that the film probably wasn't good or worthy enough to warrant a higher profile, theatrical release. Another is that when such a title is directly or even indirectly tied to a studio's previous theatrical release, the sequel or follow-up is just a greedy attempt to capitalize on the success of the former without putting as much effort or money into it.

While either or both of those thoughts are often true, other factors play into such decisions about how and where a film should be released. Mounting a theatrical run is an expensive endeavor - from the prints to the marketing and advertising - and studios often see straight to video as a viable and economical alternative. After all, at one time "Toy Story 2" was going to be released just that way until the folks at Disney realized what they had, released the film theatrically, and made hundreds of millions of dollars in return.

Although it's highly unlikely that DreamWorks' follow-up to "The Prince of Egypt" and its first foray into the straight to video market would have fared as well as Buzz and Woody, "Joseph: King of Dreams" is a far cry from the hastily assembled, let's make a buck as quickly as possible stereotype.

More of a prequel to "POE" than a sequel - as it details the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis that takes place before the Moses plot of its predecessor - the film might not have the budget, glossy veneer or Oscar worthy songs of "POE," but it certainly holds its own from a storytelling and overall entertaining standpoint.

Like "POE," the film begins with a disclaimer about the artistic and historical license it's taken with the Biblical tale. Fortunately, purists probably won't be offended by this adaptation and those with less stringent or even no religious convictions probably won't find the film too spiritual or preachy for their tastes.

Penned by scribes Eugenia Bostwick-Singer & Raymond Singer (who both helped co-write "Mulan") and Joe Stillman ("Beavis and Butt-head Do America") and Marshall Goldberg (the TV movie "Where the Truth Lies") and directed by Robert Ramirez ("The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars") and Rob LaDuca ("The Lion King II: Simba's Pride"), the result is an engaging and entertaining picture that kids will enjoy and their parents, older siblings and/or babysitters won't mind watching with them.

If anything, one can be thankful that the filmmakers opted to exclude any of the usual cartoon animal sidekicks from the story. While such characters often provide comic relief and make such animated pictures even more kid friendly, they're certainly not appropriate for this story and by now have pretty much worn out their welcome in any picture simply through repetitive overuse.

Although the blend of traditional and computer-generated animation isn't up to snuff with that found in "POE" or Disney's latest animated flicks - and varies in quality at times with characters' lips not always being in synch with the dialogue - the fact that it plays out on the small screen at home and is surprisingly engaging prevents that problem from being either distracting or disappointing. Either way, it's certainly better than that found in the crassly commercial "Pokemon" and "Digimon" films.

The songs, by John Bucchino, accompanied by composer Danny Pelfrey's score, are surprisingly good (for a straight to video release), with "Whatever Road's At Your Feet," "Better Than I," and "More Than You Take" being the standouts. The vocal work is also quite good and easily of Disney caliber with Ben Affleck ("Bounce," "Forces of Nature"), Mark Hamill (the "Star Wars" films, "Corvette Summer") and even "The Little Mermaid's" Jodi Benson ("Toy Story 2," "Flubber") delivering strong vocal performances.

While the film - that clocks in at a brief, but nevertheless long enough running time of 75 minutes - probably won't appeal to everyone, and for whatever reason didn't receive the blessing of the DreamWorks triumvirate to get the glossy, full-scale theatrical release treatment, it's actually a decent film that's far superior to most straight to video releases. A picture that the entire family can enjoy together and which should enjoy a long shelf life, "Joseph: King of Dreams" rates as a 7 out of 10.




Reviewed November 10, 2000 / Posted November 13, 2000


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