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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Joseph - King of Dreams - A Review

Joseph - King of Dreams

I recently raided my nieces DVD collection and discovered a little Dream Works treat that didn't involve cross dressing fairy tale characters and big green ogres preaching the feel good PC gospel of tolerance and the message of "its ok to be a freak if it makes you feel good" for a change!

The movie - Joseph King of Dreams, and we sat ourselves down for an evening of entertaining cartoonery. Joseph, as you should know, is the prequel to Moses - Prince of Egypt and tells the story of how the Israelites came to live in Egypt before they became the slaves of the Exodus. The original story of Joseph can be found of course in Genesis Chapter 37 and onwards. It is one of the most riveting and movie worthy stories of the Bible. Why this story has only warranted an animated feature and an Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical is way beyond me, it's replete with Jealousy, favouritism, betrayal, temptation... there are even cool things like Dream Interpretation and mistaken identity... Shakespeare himself couldn't have designed a better plot! But of course he couldn't, because the truth is always more exciting than fiction, especially when its biblical truth!
Joseph was the firstborn son of Rachel, Jacob's other wife and as such was treated more favorably than his 10 other brothers. His special treatment, prophetic dreams and fashionable coat cause his brother's to gang up on the lad and sell him to some Ishmaelites as a slave while taking his goat-blood stained coat back to their father and telling him his favourite son had been eaten by some feroxious animal. Meanwhile Joseph is sold as a slave to Potiphar, the Captain of Pharaoh's guard where he excels to the rank of chief slave. Things are looking up for the dashing young Hebrew when Potiphar's wife takes more than a liking to him and tries to entice him into some extra marital misgiving, but he is resolute and flees the crazed women, only to be framed for her rape and is thrown into prison for his trouble. However not even prison can keep him down as he becomes the most trusted of all the prisoners and eventually uses his gift of interpreting dreams to help a baker and a cup-bearer who have fallen from Pharaoh's favour. This, eventually, leads to his interpreting the king's dream, predicting a seven year famine and his clever advice on how to stave off its deadly effects puts him in the role of the second most powerful man in Egypt. The famine hits and thanks to Joseph the Egyptians are ready for it and as starvation spreads across to distant lands his own treacherous brothers come to seek his aide not realising that their saviour is in fact their long lost brother...

Its so good infact that I'm going to give you a link to the real story! Genesis Chapters 37-46
King of Dreams left much to be desired as far as grandeur and believability are concerned. Its not even worth comparing to Prince of Egypt which had me crying, and still does, during the burning bush sequence and goose bumped when the Red Sea parts, there's a flash of lightening and a whale is seen behind the wall of congealed sea! Not this movie. the songs were just bad enough for me to be able to leave the room and fetch a cup of tea and some of my mother's home cooking in time to hear the last boring bars of some easy listening song tailored to somehow fit a story that had been watered down for not just a young audience but a biblically illiterate one at that.

Most people today still think that Joseph's so called Amazing technicoloured dream coat is a biblical fact - but it doesn't say anywhere in Genesis that his coat was rainbowesque but rather richly ornamented. This film, I fear will leave your children with a distorted view of the story than what color his clothes were!

For a start Leah is missing, the unloved wife who bore most of Jacob's sons... I guess the producers felt the concept of polygamy too much for a 6-10 year olds but the fact is its in the Bible so why leave it out? Especially since it explains why Joseph was treated like a First Born - because in a way, in Jacob's eyes, he was the first born son to his legitimate wife, the one He wasn't tricked into marrying! But that's not all. When Joseph has his dreams where the son and the moon are bowing down before him Jacob doesn't tell him off as the biblical account says, but rather he is encouraged! I could do this all night so here is a quick list of all the deviations from the actual story that I could count:
- the movie uses creative licence to suggest Joseph studied while his brother's kept the herds and flocks.

- it seemed to suggest Judah was the oldest son, though not blatantly.

- I can't remember if Reuben sticks up for Joseph when they sell him off as a slave

- they had Joseph interpreting the prisoners dreams on his first night as a prisoner

- in this "version" (which I prefer to call a heresy) they had the baker act like a skeptic and rather than be eager to get an interpretation from Joseph because the cup bearer's was so ideal made him act like he was just testing Joseph's ability

- An interesting thing was they suggested Potiphera's daughter, whom Joseph married, was Potiphar's daughter/niece and then also used some creative licence to suggest that Potiphar knew his wife was at fault and his sending Joseph to jail was a matter of Honor rather than justice.

- the story implies Joseph's reason for wanting Benjamin was because he thought his brother's were lying about having a younger son, mistaking their references to Benjamin for himself

- When Joseph meets his bros after so many years they have Benjamin tell him the story of how they used to be 12 brother's until Joseph became no more and not Judah!

- Joseph doesn't speak through an interpreter which was a crucial part of the true account

- he didn't order them at the dinner table according to their age

- and worst of all Judah says that Gd intended it ll afor good and NOT Joseph!

In fact the only thing I was most happy with was the fact they got Jacob's aged appearance right, given the fact that he was in his 70's when he went to work for his uncle Laban.

I know, I know, I'm being super harsh, after all it is just a kiddies movie right? Yeah, i guess but why change an already fantastic story, even so slightly? My real beef with it though is that a lot of well meaning Christian parents are going to plonk their kids in front of this movie expecting it to teach them something about the Bible but not take the time to correct the mistakes or actually read the original account to them. The result being a generation of nominal believers whose biblical knowledge has been skewered to the point where the best they will be able to do is pass a Facebook "How Well Do You Know Your Bible?" test! We have to be careful to make sure the truth is being communicated to our children with integrity and accuracy - ESPECIALLY IN THESE LAST DAYS!

So having said that let's see what an actual real life 8 year old child had to say about this film.

Me: what didn't you like about this movie?

Niece: Some parts were wrong about it and um, they should say the real things how they happened.

Me: What was wrong with it?

Niece: It was a little bit wrong, I noticed...

She started getting things out of my parents draws here, as we conducted the interview in my mother's bedroom. She grabbed her Pa's tie and a coin and said something about a bull that got smacked or something extremely 8 year oldish I couldn't quite make out!

She continues...

Niece: ...and they changed in the movie the lady he married, but the other lady had a different hair style and a different face.

Me: What was your favourite part?

Niece: When Joseph got to see his family!

Me: What was your least favourite part?

Niece: I have to say when the brother's weren't very nice chucking him down the well

Me: What did you learn from this film?

Niece: (shrugs shoulders, purses her lips) I don't know.... that God can make miracles?

And indeed He can, and He does... and it would take a great miracle for me to give it more than a 3 out of 10 of entertainment and biblical integrity.

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