Picks and Pans Review: King David

updated 04/08/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/08/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

At least nobody can blame the writers for this one. When it comes to providing all the ingredients for a terrific movie—action, political intrigue, sex, war, art—you just can't beat the boys who pounded out the Old Testament. In translating the rocks-to-riches story of the Jews' King David to the screen, however, director Bruce (Tender Mercies) Beresford has taken an astoundingly literal-minded, credulous approach. The film has none of the scope of mythology. Yet none of the characters seem like real people either. Nobody ever says anything normal like, "Wow, that Goliath is a big son of a gun," or "Another bowl of manna, please." Instead, average people go around proclaiming to no one in particular, "The God of Israel, He is the Lord of Hosts," as if they all hope they'll end up being quoted in the Bible. Richard Gere plays David as a mumbly lech who seems to have left his charisma in the shepherd's hut. When he gazes at himself in a mirror, the notion of retitling the movie Israelite Gigolo seems awfully hard to resist. And when David celebrates the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant in his city, Jerusalem—the Bible describes him as "dancing and making merry" (I Chronicles 15:29)—Gere seems more to be auditioning for the Solid Gold chorus than paying his respects to his Deity. (For a look at the historical David, see p. 67.) Beresford rouses some life only in the many scenes of battle and miscellaneous violence. There his motto seems to be: Two heads are better than one, especially if you can lop them both off and let them bounce on the ground. Edward (Champions) Woodward has his moments as the paranoid Saul, David's predecessor, and Cherie Lunghi, as David's first wife, Michal, denounces him in the movie's only really passionate scene. But the pace drags. Anyone facing the temptation to go see King David is advised to remember that old moviegoer's commandment: Thou shalt not squander thy time on Biblical epics. (PG-13)

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