So yeah… can I just say that this is a DreamWorks film that we should probably just forget about and move on from? I mean Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is after this film and I’d much rather be reviewing that than this alternative to sleeping pills. I think we’d all like to be reading about that than this.
Hell I’d like to be writing about that right now. But I’ve said I would review it so I’ve guilt tripped myself into sitting down and finally reviewing it. So here we go with obligatory overview time. Just for those who haven’t heard of this two thousand year old story, this review is going to have spoilers and damn right it should if it’s been out in the public domain that long.
So we dive into this Genesis story with Joseph (Ben Affleck) being born to Jacob (Richard Herd) and his second wife Rachel (Maureen McGovern) and is immediately dubbed “a miracle child” since Rachel was believed to be barren. While Jacob begins to raise and educate Joseph, he neglects his ten other sons from a previous wife Leah, who are left to tend to the fields and livestock which causes resentment towards Joseph. He also gets a shiny purple cloak, who wouldn’t be jealous of that?
Then Joseph begins to have prophetic dreams and, when one of wolves attacking sheep becomes true, Jacob further praises Joseph, much to the disgust of the other brothers. Their disgust eventually boils over and so the brothers, led by Judah (Mark Hamill) throw Joseph down a pit and then, seemingly coming to free him, sell him into slavery and convince the parents that he was killed by wolves using a bloody remnant of his cloak.
Joseph is then bought by an Egyptian named Potiphar (James Eckhouse) and, after several deeds, becomes more friends than slave and master. But then Potiphar’s wife Zuleika tries to seduce Joseph and, after failing, tells Potiphar that Joseph tried to rape her. Although about to execute him, he decides to throw him in prison after Zuleika’s plea for clemency.
After more prophetic dreams, two years in prison, growing a fruit tree and a very forgettable song, he’s released to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph interprets them as seven years of abundance then seven years of famine which will destroy Egypt. He advises to store some of the food for rationing in the famine years. He succeeds and in this time has married Potiphar and Zuleika’s niece Asenath (Jodi Benson) and has two children in what I guess was meant to be a romantic subplot equivalent to Moses and Tzipporah but it’s just bland and forgettable.
Then Joseph’s brothers arrive in Egypt as they have suffered from the famine and are asking for food. Not recognising Joseph, they claim to be getting food for their family, with their youngest brother waiting with Jacob back home. Joseph not believing their story of a younger brother, arrests Simeon (Steve Weber), accuses the brothers as spies and states they must bring their younger brother as proof so that he’ll give them the food and let Simeon go.
So the brothers bring the youngest Benjamin (Matt Levin) who is almost identical to Joseph, revealing he’s the second son of the now deceased Rachel and the elderly, but still living, Jacob. He releases Simeon and invites them all to a feast, but when they are leaving, plants a cup on Benjamin and orders his imprisonment. The other brothers volunteer themselves in Benjamin’s place for fear of their father dying over the loss of another son and admit their part in selling Joseph into slavery. Joseph, touched by their honesty, reveals himself and eventually the whole family are reunited and live together in the palace in Egypt, a place which will soon be condemned by the God that gave Joseph the dreams and put him in Egypt in the first place.
Now you may be thinking; “What is going on? Why is this overview so long? Has The Chronic Chronicler lost his mind?”. Well my dear readers do not be afraid, for I have not. At least the doctors say I haven’t. Not yet anyway. I’m on the right pills.
No, I did this as a public service so that no-one need be inflicted by this film the same way I have. Hopefully this monstrously long description of the film’s plot will mean that no-one need watch this film if they have the fortune of reading this blog. That is why I have done this unprecedented lengthy overview. That and it gives me something to write about this film.
Well I might as well write some positives about the film. The animation is OK. It’s nowhere near the standard of the film it is trying to precede, The Prince of Egypt, but for a direct-to-video release it isn’t as bad as it could have been.
Also the voice acting is… OK I guess. No-one’s got the power of Ralph Fiennes as Rameses II or Val Kilmer’s presenting Moses from carefree and larking about to serious prophet. But it’s nothing terrible in of itself. They’ve got a fine cast so you can’t expect much to go wrong, especially with Mark Hamill who’s the king of voice overs after doing Star Wars. I mean, you can’t really say you’re a failure if you can claim credit for being Luke Skywalker (as he will be again) and the voice of The Joker in the animated series and in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City.
Oh and Jodi Benson is worth mentioning as, while her role is tiny, I take joy in the fact that knowing she also did the voice for Barbie in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. I somehow feel that I can take solace in knowing that Benson was in better films and slight satisfaction in knowing an obscure answer to some pub quiz in the future.
But beyond that… this film has about as much to offer to the world of cinema as Eddie Murphy does no for successful acting. The musical numbers are awful. I mean, just awful. They are more forgettable than the ones in The Prince of Egypt but at least they had “When You Believe” as their saving grace, but Joseph: King of Dreams must have forgotten to put one in.
Now we come to a problem I had with The Prince of Egypt. I sympathise with the wrong characters. By this I mean not the protagonist, Joseph. I sympathise with the brothers. Think about it. From his birth, Joseph has been treated as special. Jacob educates him and distances him from his brothers who have to walk all day tending to the fields and livestock. And, although Joseph wants to be like his brothers, Jacob refuses this because he is special.
There are even scenes where Joseph is accepted by his brothers, but with Jacob continuing to distance Joseph from them, they get bitter against Joseph. And do you know what, I don’t blame them. Jacob is constantly telling everyone that Joseph is a “miracle child” and that God has a plan for him, but Joseph just wants to be like his brothers.
Now I know that the film makes Joseph out to be all intelligent, bringing irrigation and being better than his brothers in all respects, but Jacob just puts him on a pedestal compared to his TEN OTHER SONS! Of course they are going to be angry. I would be if one of my brothers got huge preferential treatment ahead of me. I was hoping that the brothers go off together and leave their father in hopes of triumphing as equals. But alas that does not happen.
Also the two years’ imprisonment thing, now that’s just stupid. I mean the song is bland and forgettable but why is he imprisoned for so long? Why is he imprisoned in the first place? Potiphar knows that his wife is lying about the rape yet he imprisons Joseph anyway? Is he afraid that people will know his wife was trying to seduce a slave and that’ll affect his social standing? Only two guards are present besides Joseph, Potiphar and Zuleika and they never say outright that Zuleika was in the wrong, so he could have just given him clemency then and there. But no. Now we have a two year imprisonment scene for Joseph to grow a beard, plant a tree and sing. What joy…
Also if anyone from DreamWorks is watching this, I know you must have learnt from this film because your main character is so damn terrible. Ah, ah, ah. Before you say he isn’t, he really is. Sold into slavery by his brothers, yes they are dicks for that. But it all leads up to a kick-ass life with a wife, children and he lives in a freakin’ palace. What more could he want? Oh yeah, that’s right revenge, of course how silly of me. Wait, he’s about to enslave Benjamin? The one he had no knowledge of and had nothing to do with his enslavement just to punish his brothers? What a dick.
Yes Joseph is a dick. Now I know what you are thinking. Isn’t Joseph’s dickishness similar to when Moses in The Prince of Egypt before he realises what he must do? No. Not at all. The Prince of Egypt at least had the intelligence to make both Moses and Rameses likable so that you felt a conflict between them both as people and ideas. Whereas Joseph is a tool, then a dick and then tries to appear gracious by revealing he’s alive to his brothers only after threatening to imprison his own brother. And he’s the good guy? No. Just no.
It’s simple really why this film is a bomb. It’s a prequel to The Prince of Egypt and, while I know I have my issues with the film, I know that The Prince of Egypt is still watchable and can give a lot of enjoyment. Joseph: King of Dreams… not so much. The story is bland, the characters almost unlikable, the music is substandard and the animation is iffy in areas. Seriously, whoever thought this movie was a good idea should have been fired, or at least had a pay deduction.
You’d think I’d keep going on a film I clearly dislike. Well I’m not. I’ve said all I want to say because to say anymore would be irrelevant. This film is the reason why DreamWorks has never had another direct-to-video ever. That says something in of itself. It’s just bad. It tries to keep the biblical gravy train going after The Prince of Egypt and, while they had the sense not to theatrically release it, it cannot compare with its predecessor.
I hope you enjoyed this review if I can call it that. Please like, comment and share around and hopefully we can all move pass this review and get to a better one where I can get excited or suitably hateful of films in the future. Next DreamWorks film on the list is Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron. It’s got to be better than this…surely?