More Desperate Israelites than authentic Biblical tale

One Night With the King

on October 13, 2006 by Wade Major
The 1950s and 1960s were the golden age of Biblical adaptations, with such films as The Ten Commandments, The Story of Ruth, Sodom and Gomorrah, Ben-Hur, The Robe and Esther and the King rallying the moral rectitude of war-weary audiences in search of brighter lights. Both Ruth and Esther made their debuts in 1960, with Elana Eden and Joan Collins bringing their respective heroines to life for directors Henry Koster and Raoul Walsh. Collins, however, got the better of her part thanks to a superior director in Walsh.

Apart from a longer running time, weaker acting, campier dialogue and substantially glossier production values, the Fox Faith release One Night With the King doesn't do much to improve on what Walsh and Collins did nearly 50 years ago. Producer Matthew Crouch is the driving force behind this production, along with wife Laurie. Matthew is son of Trinity Broadcast Network founder and noted televangelist Paul Crouch, who helped launch evangelical-targeted filmmaking with 1990's China Cry and 1999's The Omega Code, largely as a response to frowned-upon Hollywood productions like Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ. The Crouches have, on a certain level, raised the bar for such films, at least in terms of photography, costuming and art direction. By enlisting the likes of Lawrence of Arabia veterans Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif to appear -- emphasis on “appear” --- alongside such relative unknowns as Tiffany Dupont in the title role, and Luke Goss as King Xerxes, they also seem to be looking for more crossover appeal than they received on previous productions like The Omega Code, though clearly not at the expense of their evangelical base. Unfortunately, it's that slavish refusal to detour from the most conservative possible interpretation of such events that ultimately makes One Night With the King little more than a dolled-up, oversimplified sermon.

The story of Esther, for the Sunday School-challenged, is laid out in the very small Biblical book of the same name, a roughly 12-page story detailing events that gave rise to the Jewish feast of Purim. Set during a period of Jewish captivity, the tale centers on an Israelite woman, Esther, who rises to become wife of Xerxes, the Persian king, but refuses to hide her Jewish ancestry, a choice that ultimately saves her people from certain genocide at the hands of the evil Haman. For most, the message of the story is one of divine providence and mercy, though this interpretation throws on an added post-9/11 spin that places such political concepts as freedom and equality into a religious context.

The source material, it's worth noting, isn't the Biblical book but a looser version of the story -- the novel Hadassah: One Night With the King by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen. That may explain why this all feels more like Desperate Israelites than an authentic Biblical tale. But, for its core audience of evangelical conservatives, that it's Bible-based is really all that will likely matter. Distributor: Fox Faith
Cast: Tiffany Dupont, Luke Goss, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif
Director: Michael O. Sajbel
Screenwriter: Stephan Bunn
Producers: Mathew Crouch & Laurie Crouch, Richard J. Cook, Stephan Blinn and Lawrence Mortorff
Genre: Biblical drama
Rating: PG for violence, some sensuality and thematic elements
Running time: 121 min.
Release date: October 13

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