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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Joshua (2002)

"We all knew the meaning of the word 'community,' but until Joshua came along, we didn't really live in one."
- Father Pat (Kurt Fuller)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: November 12, 2002

Stars: Tony Goldwyn, F. Murray Abraham
Other Stars: Kurt Fuller, Stacy Edwards, Colleen Camp, Giancarlo Giannini
Director: Jon Purdy

Manufacturer: 321Media
MPAA Rating: G for (nothing offensive)
Run Time: 01h:30m:29s
Release Date: October 22, 2002
UPC: 012236130598
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C+B-C+ C-

DVD Review

Joshua is a movie about the Second Coming, but it's not about the end of the world. Jesus hasn't come back to reclaim the righteous and cast the sinners into the pits of damnation. He just wants to spend some time with some of his Father's very special creations. The director describes the film, based on the novel by Joseph Girzone, as a "what if" story—what if Jesus returned to earth to live as human once again? What would his life be like in the modern age? Where would he work? Who would he befriend? How would he share his message of hope?

Joshua (Tony Goldwyn) appears out of nowhere into the small town of Auburn. He rents a farmhouse and sleeps in the hay; the roof is full of holes but he never gets wet when it rains. He sets about rebuilding the old Baptist church, destroyed in a storm the year before, and makes his presence known around town. If he's not teaching his landlord (Colleen Camp) how to cook, he's counseling a grieving widow (Stacy Edwards), offering advice to a troubled youth, or helping a confused priest (Kurt Fuller) find his calling.

Most are inspired by his kindness. Father Pat in particular is amazed, and believes Joshua to be Christ reborn after he heals a woman of her blindness at a revival. But the head of the parish, Father Tardone (F. Murray Abraham), believes Joshua to be a fraud, and accuses him of trying to lead people from the Catholic Church.

Just to get it out of the way: Joshua is a very Christian. I might even go so far as to call it evangelical. Many find such overt spirituality to be off-putting, and they'd be advised to skip this film. But if you can get past it, there are some interesting ideas at work, even if they are more or less ignored. I've often wondered, if a messiah figure appeared in the world today, would anyone believe? Would anyone even notice? Or would he be written off as another cult-leading looney? If Joshua had spent more time dealing with these issues, I might have found more to like about it. As it is, any complexity is glossed over with platitudes and quick role reversals, as characters experience the "power of God," which sounds well and good but is fairly disappointing from a dramatic standpoint.

There's still something to say for a good cast, however, and this one is leaps and bounds above that which is typically seen in Christian films. I mean, F. Murray Abraham (managing to add weight to a one-note character)! Tony Goldwyn is likewise very impressive—his relaxed, very human portrayal melds with Jesus' message of inclusion and brotherly love. The supporting players are decent, though none of the ensemble members stand out much (save Giancarlo Gianinni as the Pope).

Jon Purdy's direction is unremarkable; he handles the film with all the grace and subtlety of your average TV movie. The score, from Christian singer Michael W. Smith, does little to help him—it's ludicrously overwritten and quite melodramatic at times (when we aren't being subjected to the "twangy guitars of small-town intrigue" that is). Internet Movie Database lists the budget at $9 million, but that amount certainly doesn't show up onscreen—sets are sparse and generally unconvincing.

Technical quibbles aside, Joshua feels like ten pounds of story in a one pound bag. All of the pertinent issues that could've been dealt with, all the emotion of a community coming to grips with the true meaning of faith is ignored. I think some more ambiguity would have helped—if Joshua's followers had been required to take something on faith rather than have the miracles stuffed down their throats. Clearly the creators focused less on making a compelling movie and more on communicating a certain message.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Video quality is ok for a low-budget production. It's worthwhile to note right off the bat that this release has been altered from its original theatrical aspect ratio, the mattes removed from the 1.85:1 image to create a 1.33:1 full-screen transfer. That means more picture on the top and bottom of the screen, but at the expense of anamorphic enhancement. Otherwise, the picture quality isn't too bad. Colors tend to have a flat, dull appearance, giving the production the look of a made-for-TV movie, but the image is nice and crisp. Blacks are solid, but shadow detail is lacking—a few darker scenes are quite difficult to make out. I noted some aliasing in a few shots, and minor artifacting in shots with lots of leaves or background detail, but nothing too distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in both 2.0 and 5.1 English. The 2.0 track is actually a more pleasant sonic experience—it confines everything to the front soundstage, but presents dialogue and music quite naturally. The 5.1 mix tries to be too flashy. The overbearing score is mixed quite noticeably into the surround channels, and the effect is fairly distracting (especially considering the general clumsiness of the music in the first place). The same showiness is applied to a scene of a rainstorm—the rain and thunder play loudly in the surrounds, overpowering the front soundstage and sounding totally unnatural.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from the trailer, a TV spot, some brief production notes, and rather extensive cast and crew bios, Joshua includes a better-than-average making-of featurette. Running just under 25 minutes, this piece is made up mostly of interviews with the creative team behind the film. The cast talks a lot about their roles (in fact, the segments on the characters take up more than half the running time; this material is pretty redundant if you've seen the film), but there's also a lot of discussion of the evangelical goals of the production. This discussion threatens to turn viewers off with its talk of providing "ministry" to those who don't believe in God, but I appreciate at least the attempt at thoughtful commentary.

Two minor annoyances: all film clips in the documentary are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, which begs the question, why is the feature not? Also, no subtitles of any kind have been included, as is the norm for Artisan DVDs.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Joshua is an admirable attempt at creating a thoughtful film with a Christian message, but the script doesn't earn its big emotional moments and the generally amateurish production values hurt things further. Yet I still think this would make a good choice for family night viewing, provided you are comfortable with the religious content.


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