What better way, after something of an extended break due to a mad man and his time travelling phone box, to return to the weird and wacky world of ICFTBB than with a film that encompasses a vertiable ‘unholy’ trinity: low budget animation, low budget TV movie AND low budget faith film?
Well, buckle up!
Broadcast in 2004 on the Sky Angel Network, Joshua and the Promised Land is about a pink lion who gets taken by a strange cat spirit named Chris (or not Billy Crystal as I’ve nicknamed him) to a far off time (great message for kids by the way: wander off with random strangers who promise you an ‘adventure’) to show him the Hebrews’ flight from Egypt and the evil panther Pharoah.
Less than an hour long (no doubt padded with commercial breaks to fill a more fitting runtime), it’s nothign short of utterly astounding how little effort is put in. It’s like some type of anti-art on displey. In fact, it’s literally from the first frame: we get lazy Movie Maker credits with stock choir music to end all stock choir music. Past that, when we meet our ‘narrator’, a purple cat with a bowtie, we are introduced to the film’s actual production values: terrible Sega Saturn-worthy graphics with Jim Carrey faces plastered on models of mostly feline characters, such as lions, cougars and panthers. If these piles of robotic plasticine don’t haunt your nightmares, I don’t know what will.
The animation, just like the voice work, is very stiff and stilted, like they used a bunch of cheap assests for basic motions. Other parts of the audio aren’t great either, as we also endure some very grainy sound effects that sound ripped from cheap, early 2000s PC games (in fact, one of them, from a battle scene, sounds a lot like a space-themed pinball game I used to play on my old Toshiba from ’03). The film was directed, animated and written by one man, aptly named Kevin Lion, and it really shows.
And there’s the actual story: so we have our annoying purple narrator who states the obvious throughout the runtime (I’ll bet you’ve never heard of pyramids or Moses, because he seems to think so and will go on and on about) and goes over the whole story. I suppose the idea is that Joshua learns strength and courage by participating in the bibilical story, but the logic feels flimsy (for example, the conceit is that Joshua posseses the actual Joshua’s body and lives the whole story, meaning he goes through the whole ’40 years’ bit. Somehow, this doesn’t scar him, nor do we see him experience any real turmoil) and Joshua’s such a flat, one dimensional character that it’s difficult to really feel any investment in his supposed growth.
And as for those good old, wholesome Christian values about peace, love and tolerance? Well, they even decided to let our main kid lead the Hebrew army into battle and kill a whole of enemy soldiers. Yes, nothing like good old fashioned slaughter to teach the kids at home about the justice and love of God! It’s even cute how they later try to justify the destruction of Jericho by doing the whole ‘but this violence isn’t wrong: they’re all evil’ schtick, as if somehow they’re any better for letting a child go into battle.
In closing, it’s dreadful. The whole thing screams ‘a new level of innovation in the field of cheap entertainment production’; sterile animation with gaudy textures, coupled with a bland cast and story that sometimes feels like it’s contradicting its own values, and you have a crash-course in the ‘do not dos’ of family films. If you’re one of those smart alecks who thinks they can make a better movie than Hollywood on their own, well… give this a watch. Suddenly, you’ll have a newfound respect for the makers of Nut Job 2 or Norm of the North.