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DreamWorks presents
Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)

"It's a mistake! I've done nothing wrong!"
- Joseph (Ben Affleck)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: November 15, 2000

Stars: Ben Affleck, James Eckhouse
Other Stars: Mark Hamill, Jodi Benson, Maureen McGovern, Richard Herd
Director: Robert Ramirez, Rob LaDuca

Manufacturer: Nimbus
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (a few frightening moments)
Run Time: 01h:14m:36s
Release Date: November 07, 2000
UPC: 667068645224
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C+AB+ B+

DVD Review

Joseph: King of Dreams is an animated retelling of the Biblical story of Joseph (voiced by Ben Affleck), favored son of Jacob (Richard Herd) whose envious brothers sell him into slavery, bloodying his multicolored coat to provide a cover story. In captivity in Egypt, Joseph works his way into a position of responsibility in the household of his owner, Potiphar (James Eckhouse), Pharaoh's captain of the guard; thrown into jail after Potiphar's wife tries unsuccessfully to seduce him and claims he took the initiative, he interprets his fellow inmates' dreams and earns an audience with Pharaoh. Charged with helping Egypt survive a famine foretold by Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph becomes powerful and respected. When his erstwhile brothers travel from Canaan to Egypt to beg for grain, Joseph is tempted to take his revenge on them.

Many of the people involved in DreamWorks' theatrical feature Prince of Egypt consulted on this direct-to-video pseudo-sequel, and the influence is apparent. Character designs are quite similar, and the backgrounds and color schemes are just as striking if not more so, thanks to designer Ken Tsumura (Princess Mononoke). Computer animation is used to good effect, supplying some beautiful Van Gogh-inspired dream sequences and subtle 3-D camera moves, and 2-D compositing is quite sophisticated, with quite a few multiplane and depth-of-field effects. The detailed rim-lighting effects seen in Prince of Egypt also show up here in somewhat simplified form, adding depth and richness to the imagery.

The animation itself isn't quite up to the same standard—farmed out to numerous international studios, some sequences suffer from segmented movement (where part of the image "holds" while other parts move on a separate cel layer), repeating cycles and low framerates. A few shots are downright ugly, with oddly proportioned characters whose relative sizes seem incorrect, and group shots almost always look a little strange. Most scenes look just fine, and there are at least two sequences with strongly staged acting, but the occasional bit of low-budget, amateurish animation betrays the project's fragmented, direct-to-video genesis (no pun intended).

Joseph: King of Dreams follows the Biblical story relatively closely, allowing for the artistic license mentioned in the film's opening disclaimer, though many viewers will also recognize the plot from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The film captures the story's themes of responsibility and redemption quite well, but suffers from some production deficiencies, not least of which is Ben Affleck's lead performance as Joseph. I've enjoyed Mr. Affleck onscreen on numerous occasions, but his casual, flat, David Duchovny-ish style of speaking doesn't work well in animation; his Joseph always seems easygoing and matter-of-fact, even when he should be indignant, outraged or overjoyed. Strong supporting performances (especially Jodi Benson as Joseph's wife Asaneth and James Eckhouse as Potiphar) don't make Affleck's job any easier, and Joseph frequently fails to rise to the dramatic heights the script would seem to require. Most of the film's "five new songs" are unmemorable and derivative, although the Disney-esque More Than You Take is pretty catchy.

The film does deserve credit for playing the story fairly straight—there are no buffoons or talking animals included for the sake of comic relief, and the filmmakers have a solid grasp of storytelling. Joseph's dream sequences are inventively realized, and the film acknowledges its religious content without seeming pious or hypocritical. But the ultimate effect is rather dry, despite the gorgeous production design; still, Joseph: King of Dreams is not a bad choice for family viewing, and better than most direct-to-video animation.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Joseph: King of Dreams is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with an excellent anamorphic transfer. The film was assembled and edited digitally, providing an extremely clean, sharp master for this dual-layer DVD edition. Colors are rich, black level is deep and there's not a hint of noise, dirt or instability; if anything, the image is a little bit TOO clear, occasionally revealing individual pixels in the backgrounds of the stylized dream sequences. Just shy of the DVD animation standard set by Disney's Tarzan and Pixar's direct-to-digital transfers, and an excellent image by any standard.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: DreamWorks presents Joseph: King of Dreams with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Both tracks are similar in character, largely front-oriented with a few gimmicky rear effects, though dialogue and music separation are noticeably better in the 5.1 presentation; the 2.0 track sounds slightly muddy in comparison. But both tracks capture the film's dialogue, songs and score competently and clearly, with some additional bass and split surrounds heard in the 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:59m:53s

Extra Extras:
  1. Read-Along
  2. Sing-Along
  3. Interactive Trivia Game
  4. DVD-ROM Coloring/Activity Sheets, Memory Game
Extras Review: Joseph: King of Dreams is loaded with supplemental material, though the quality is uneven. Standard features include 18 chapter stops (with full-motion menus), optional English subtitles, on-disc Production Notes and the film's promotional Trailer (full frame, intended for video). Substantial extras include:

Read-Along:

A nineteen-minute "read-along" version of the film's story, using stills and animation clips with a narrator reading the on-screen text, intended as a DVD equivalent to the old book-and-record sets. Unfortunately, the story sounds more like a synopsis than an engaging storybook; children may find this uninspired retelling boring.

Sing-Along:Three of the film's songs (Miracle Child, More Than You Take and Better Than I) are presented in sing-along format, using clips from the feature with lyrics displayed onscreen, highlighted in time with the music, karaoke-style. Not quite as much fun as the old-fashioned bouncing ball, but at least two of these are decent songs and this is a fun feature.

Trivia Game:

A series of twenty-two Trivia questions based on the film, rather than the Biblical story of Joseph; correct answers display appropriate film clips, while wrong answers produce generic "Wrong Answer" or "Try Again" clips. The questions aren't particularly difficult, and one of the answers is actually slightly inaccurate, but the interactive feedback makes this fun for youngsters testing their powers of observation.

Storyboard Presentation with Director Commentary:

Three storyboard sequences with optional commentary by co-directors Robert Ramirez and Rob LaDuca. The storyboards depict an early, unused version of the "Marketplace" sequence as well as the final "Marketplace" and "Joseph Meets the Pharaoh" boards. There are no direct storyboard-to-film comparisons, but this is a worthwhile feature and the commentary is of interest despite its brevity (no feature-length commentary is provided on the disc).

Cast & Crew Bios/Filmographies:

An extensive set of biographies and filmographies, covering TWENTY-SIX members of the cast and production crew, with more of an emphasis on the filmmakers and executives. Good information, despite some typos and other errors.

DVD-ROM Features:

I was not able to explore these DVD-ROM features, but the disc features a "Downloadable Kids' Coloring Sheet," "Downloadable Activity Sheets" and a PCFriendly "Memory Game." A nice little bonus for DVD-ROM-equipped PCs; these features will not work on a Macintosh.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Joseph: King of Dreams is a competent if unspectacular direct-to-video animated feature based on the Biblical story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis. DreamWorks' DVD features an excellent transfer and substantial supplements. Not quite up to the standard set by The Prince of Egypt, but family-friendly and worth a look.

 


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