'The Bible' review: No testament to inspiration

Abraham (Gary Oliver) prepares Isaac (Hugo Rossi) for Abraham (Gary Oliver) prepares Isaac (Hugo Rossi) for the sacrifice in The History Channel's "The Bible." Photo Credit: History Channel

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "The Bible"

WHEN|WHERE Starts Sunday night at 8 on History

WHAT IT'S ABOUT This 10-hour film -- with a score by Hans Zimmer, narrated by Keith David and produced by reality TV magnate Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, who also stars as Mary -- is a dramatic retelling of several major Biblical stories, including: Genesis, Sarah and Abraham, and the Exodus (Sunday); Joshua's quest to secure the Promised Land, the prophet Samuel and King David (March 10), Daniel, and then into the New Testament, with the birth of Jesus (March 17); Jesus and his disciples and the betrayal by Judas (March 24); then the Passion and Revelation (March 31). With Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as Jesus.

MY SAY Since the creation of the motion picture camera, there have been hundreds of films and TV movies based on the Bible -- no fewer than five "Ten Commandments," for example -- and each has relied to a greater or lesser degree on creative license. They've had to and the reason is obvious -- the Bible didn't come with set directions, or tips about tracking shots or crossfades, or all that much expository dialogue, either. (Hey, it was called The Word, after all, not "The Picture.")

But license is vital, and because so much has been taken, great work -- even numinous work -- has been the result. But more often than not, Biblical cornhuskings are the byproduct, and from what I sampled (three hours) here, Burnett and Downey's ambitious and plodding "The Bible" falls in the latter category.

It's too bad, really, because clearly a great deal of work and thought has been put into this. There's no doubting the sincerity or earnestness of the effort, but what's missing is passion or interpretation.

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They've taken the big stories, added the requisite CGI special effects -- Fast-shifting clouds! Thunder! Lighting! Towering walls of water! -- and retold them as blandly as possible.

This "Bible" probably won't offend anyone, but it's hard to imagine it will inspire anyone, either.

BOTTOM LINE Big, sprawling and flat

@Newsday

GRADE C

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