A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Old Testament tale is suitable for grade-school kids. Some things to note: Joseph's solo ballad laments persecution of the Hebrews. Joseph's father is obviously a polygamist. Fully-clothed dancers simulate orgies with mildly suggestive choreography. A sheep is dismembered (though it's clearly a mannequin-like fake). Religious viewers may have qualms about the treatment of the Scripture-based material (God is barely mentioned here). The themes of sibling rivalry, jealousy, and ultimate forgiveness, however, are universal.
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What's the story?
Schoolchildren assemble for an Old Testament pageant, but once the music begins, the onstage action becomes real, and the school's headmaster (Richard Attenborough) reappears as Jacob, father to eleven sons. After Jacob gives favored son Joseph (Donny Osmond) a present of a spectacular, multicolored coat, his jealous brothers fake the boy's death. In fact, Joseph has been sold into slavery in Egypt, where he's unjustly accused of dallying with a pyramid tycoon's vampish wife (Joan Collins). In prison, he gains fame interpreting fellow inmates' dreams, and is then called on to explain the Pharaoh's troubling nightmares, after which he's hired as Pharaoh's top advisor. Years pass, and Joseph's famine-stricken brothers come to Egypt to buy grain. Unrecognized, Joseph bitterly frames his youngest brother for thievery. But when the remaining brothers selflessly offer to accept his punishment, Joseph is moved to reveal his true identity, and the family is happily reunited.
Is it any good?
JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT retains all the sparkling wit, style, and melodies of the original Broadway musical. In a nimble eighty-minutes, viewers get a banquet of different musical styles. Jacob is told of Joseph's "death" in a twangy country-western lament; Pharaoh relates his dreams in pure Elvis style (he is The King, after all); the framing of brother Benjamin is set to Caribbean calypso; and the rest is Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular brand of catchy power pop. The multi-ethnic cast (old Jacob evidently had wide-ranging tastes in wives) contributes to the world-beat feel.
Donny Osmond's all-American good looks make him a very likeable Joseph. The real find here, however, is Maria Friedman. Introduced as a mousy schoolteacher, she blossoms into a superb narrator. Her expressive face lets the audience know just what's going on (a great asset since the lyrics by Tim Rice -- of The Lion King fame -- are occasionally obtuse). As with the movie Godspell, religious viewers may have qualms about the treatment of the Scripture-based material (God is barely mentioned here). The themes of sibling rivalry and ultimate forgiveness, however, are universal.
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