Now in the theatres we went to see it a few days ago. I wish I could rave about the film and tell you that it is a must-see, but I cannot. There are bits and pieces of it that I appreciated, but in many respects it felt like a poor remake of an aging religious blockbuster like "The Ten Commandments" or "Ben-Hur."
Set in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire, which is a place on the western edge of modern-day Iran, the city that the moviemakers conjured up using contemporary computer magic, was dominated by a palace that looked more like a merger between New York's Plaza Hotel and Niagara Falls! How much more meaningful it would have been if they could have put together something that was more period appropriate. The setting was more a tribute to the film-makers determination to exaggerate than to represent the beautiful story that tells itself so well in the Old Testament in the right scale.
The set from the very start had me on my guard: if they would take liberties with the environment of the story, then what was to prevent them taking liberties with the story itself?
In some ways they followed the basic drift of the book of Esther, but in other ways they embroidered in a manner that left me feeling antsy. For example, Esther is given a necklace that sparkles in a particular way to show us that she is of true Jewish heritage. Then one of her young male chums is hauled away and made a eunuch in the palace so that later he becomes a convenient go-between. Little touches like this might seem cute to a Hollywooder, but don't do a lot for someone who believes this is an extraordinary story that does not need such props in order to make its impact.
Having said these unkind things about the movie, however, let me say some nice things, too. Although there is a lot of embroidery and some dumbing-down, "One Night with the King" does not stray too far from the original storyline. We get a watered down touch of the flavor of what Esther is about even if in the process we are robbed of the deeper dimensions.