A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Joseph & Mary is a direct-to-DVD movie that attempts to fill a void left by the Gospels. The lineage and character of Jesus's "earthbound" father, Joseph, is recognized in the New Testament as a good and respected man; however, there was little written about Jesus' early life with him. To that end, the film team has created the story of Joseph with Mary and Jesus as a child. The film presents many of Jesus' teachings and preaches strong values. In fact, Joseph is seen here to be the source of some of Jesus' vital insights. At the core of the story is the dilemma of vengeance versus forgiveness. The film doesn't flinch from using brutality as a means to tell the tale. Violent scenes include the death of a major character and the heartless stabbings of men, women, children, and even a baby. A mother's horrifying reaction to the slaughter of her family is intense. A man drinks to excess in one scene. Not recommended for younger kids.
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What's the story?
In the earliest scenes of JOSEPH & MARY, the wise Joseph (Kevin Sorbo) and gentle Mary (Lara Jean Chorostecki), along with their trusted friend Rabbi Elijah (Stephen McCarthy) -- a character new to the traditional story -- have come to Jerusalem to be counted in the census. They are joyful when the baby Jesus is born in a stable and the Star of Bethlehem guides the three magi to the baby's side. But their happiness is short-lived when Herod, Rome's emissary to Israel, receives news that the prophecy of the Torah may be realized: It is said that the Messiah has been born. Fearful of losing power, Herod orders his men, with the cunning Tiberius in charge, to rid Israel of all male children under two. Joseph, Mary, and the infant escape the country. However, the world of Rabbi Elijah and Rebekah, the woman he loves, is shattered when Tiberius slays her two small children and her father. In the wake of such savagery, Rebekah is bent on vengeance. When it is once again safe, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus return to Nazareth where Jesus grows into a strong and thoughtful boy. Elijah and Rebekah, now married, have held fast to their desire for revenge. Unfortunately, Roman rule still oppresses the Israelites, exacting heavy taxes and menacing the citizenry. When Jesus is 12 years old and beginning to exhibit some of the wondrous qualities that will mark his life, he again becomes the target of the Roman emissaries. Joseph and Mary, along with Elijah, must ward off the threat, saving Rebekah's soul as well.
Is it any good?
Earnestness and strong religious messages can't overcome the mostly wooden acting, shoddy production, and brutality shown in this story based partially on the New Testament. The story the filmmakers created to enhance the character of the Biblical Joseph is particularly harsh. While it's a plus to see Joseph more fully realized as a mentor, protector, and loving father, the movie is artless, clunky, and far more unsettling than uplifting. Using the Bible as source material for Herod's attempts to rid Israel of any infant or toddler boy who might be the Messiah, this film's emotional arc depends upon the death of a baby, a small boy, their father, and their grandfather. That, along with the relentless scenes depicting their mother's grief and thirst for revenge, makes the movie suitable only for very mature tweens, teens, and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss Joseph as he was portrayed in this new interpretation of Jesus' young life. Did it increase your understanding of Jesus' character? How did Joseph's behavior affect his young son and contribute to Jesus' teachings?
Liberties have been taken with the traditional story of Jesus, his birth, and events that surrounded it in the New Testament. Do you agree or disagree with the filmmakers' decision to adopt new characters and new situations to expand the biblical tale? What are your reasons?
Talk about the violence and the grief in this film. While both elements were essential to the story, do you think the film could have been as effective if it weren't quite so brutal and intense?
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