I think I had ancient civilizations on my mind last night because I got my hands on a DVD of the animated Joseph, King of Dreams and watched it Sunday. This was the direct-to-DVD Dreamworks follow-up to the success of Prince of Egypt. Now, I never hear a single word about this film, and I have lots of animation fans in my net circles, so I figured it was a critical flop. But I found it cheap and was curious.
I went into it with low expectations. I was astounded at how delightful it was! If you can overlook the utter forgettability of the songs (I can), I can hardly think of a thing to criticize. I never realized how hard it must be to make everyone in that story sympathetic. Joseph could come off as arrogant, his brothers could come off as brutes, Potiphar could be a foolish cuckold. But everybody lived. Flaws and gifts, hopes and despairs, there were so many full-fledged characters in that thing. I was amazed. They kept it a children-friendly story yet no one was reduced to one-dimensional motives. Even tricky adult-issue elements chose to practice very nice subtlety, such as Potiphar's wife trying to seduce Joseph; there was all this careful unspoken communication that just poured out of that important scene: Joseph knowing he can't accuse his accuser right back because he knows it'll be an unforgivable offense, Potiphar understanding what's really going on and hating it, and Potiphar's wife showing an ounce of compassion even while she protects her own interests first.
There's so much of that. They were so very careful, trying not to give the viewer facepalm moments. Joseph doesn't simply blurt out his dreams about lording it over his brothers, for example; it's carefully set up and he's not so naive to miss that they won't like hearing that.
I really, really liked this film. I'm sorry it seems to have been so overlooked. (It's on Netflix streaming; check it out if you feel like it!)