My completely unsolicited review of “Megillas Lester”

After all my recent ranting and raving about Esther in pop culture, I watched a video this afternoon with the husband and kids that made me feel better. I’d first heard about it on Tablet, then on the OU’s website.

animated video kol rom

Megillas Lester–a hilarious film in the Purim Spiel tradition.

Kolrom media, who has produced a lot of music videos and shorts for the Orthodox audience (like the video for the song “Ana Avda” and a hilarious bit on Aish.com called “Sicko” about how NOT to do the mitzvah of visiting the sick), has just released a video about Purim that refers to all the midrashim and commentaries I talked about in my rant. And it’s funny. Although Esther doesn’t make an appearance. Even Mordechai barely shows up.

That’s because “Megillas Lester” is about a boy, Lester, who dreams he has messed up the Purim story so much that Esther doesn’t have a chance to become queen. And Mordechai doesn’t get a chance to save the king. So who will save the Jewish people from Haman’s evil plot?

The visuals are impressive for a direct-to-video release, although they’re not quite as elaborate as something by Pixar. But since many members of the intended audience (like my kids) haven’t seen anything by Pixar, that’s okay. The visuals balance accurate renderings of ancient Persia with the workings of a contemporary kid’s mind.

As a writer, I want a solid script, and this has got it. The crazy Purim Spiel-type antics are logical; the dialogue is clever. The humor relies a lot on puns, some of which require viewers to know Hebrew (I happen to love puns, but I know a lot of people don’t) and much of it does rely on some knowledge of the actual Megillas Esther. I consider this another indication that this is a film intended for an audience with a solid background in Yiddishkeit. However, it would be interesting to hear what a more mainstream Jewish viewer thinks.

I found the vocal performances to be top-notch. Standouts are Haman, Achashveirosh, Vashti, and Bigsan. There’s music in the movie, too. The absolute best part is when Haman sings a song called “I’m Evil.”

Or maybe that King Achashveirosh’s horse is named “Hangover.”

Or maybe it’s when Zeresh keeps complaining that Haman doesn’t take out the trash.

Or…

The video is available on DVD through Artscroll and in Jewish bookstores, but you can also stream it for a small fee through Vimeo.

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7 thoughts on “My completely unsolicited review of “Megillas Lester”

  1. Is this done by chananya Kramer? He is so super talented. His parents and siblings used to live in LA. His two younger sisters Nechama and Kayla were the most talented actresses and writers and singers that Bais Yaakov la ever had. I think it’s him. He made these tapes years ago called the shluffy bokervekker tapes that my kids absolutely loved listening to.

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  2. Shluffy’s mom here. And Kayla and Chumie Kramer’s mom. (Lester’s grandmother, I guess) πŸ™‚
    Loved your review of Megillas Lester, and not just because our son Chananya wrote and directed it, and our daughter Malka Leah Josephs wrote the lyrics– It really is terrific, no?
    I MISS LIFE IN LA!! (But it was nice to be on the East Coast since that enabled us to attend the Megillas Lester premiere at Lincoln Center in NYC.) Yiddishe Nachas all around. A Freilichen Purim!
    Shana Kramer

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    • Mrs. Kramer, my son P. really wishes he could talk to your son to tell him about his rebbe and everything he knows about Shluffy B.B. P. really wants his phone number. πŸ˜‰ He’s so excited you commented that he can’t contain himself.

      And I just love the lyrics your daughter wrote. I also really liked how the women’s speaking parts were integrated into the men’s singing–so tznua but inclusive. Just the right balance.

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  3. Its funny how you write against certain depictions of Esther in pop culture, when this movie boows it by excluding her. women inBeit shemesh and elsewhere are marganalized (with one paper calling for woman to “stay home” on Purim. Kol Rom had the opportunity and they blew it

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    • Thank you for sharing your opinion. I’m assuming that “boows it” means “blows it.” This is a work of fiction and should be viewed as such. It is made clear from the beginning that this is the case. Despite this, in several parts of the dialogue as well as a couple of the song lyrics, Esther is described in positive terms that are accurate to the details of the Megillah, unlike in the pop culture references I complained about which in some cases are nothing less than character defamation. Lester actually wants her to appear, and consciously tries to make it necessary that she replace Vashti.

      The story is about Lester an “Everykid” character, not about the Megillah, per se, and this movie follows a artistic strategy that has precedent in literature, theaters and movies.

      I saw no problem in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” when Hamlet pretty much just walked onstage and walked off, completely marginalized. I had no problem with non-appearance of Jane Eyre in “Wide Sargasso Sea.” I see no difference here. Even Mordechai barely appears–we’re only allowed to see him from behind, and he gives a few words of wisdom and disappears. Since we are told in the Gemara that Esther was by nature a very modest, private person, it makes sense in the context of the story that Lester never sees her since there is no replacement necessary for Vashti. I much prefer this strategy to one that suggests Esther is beauty queen, actually wants to be married to a boor like Achashveirosh, or the like.

      KolRom is not some kind of extreme organization. They are considered pretty mainstream, Centrist Orthodox. They even gave other female characters more “screen time” than in the Megillah, although they are negative characters, and found a way to work them into a musical number, despite the fact some audience members don’t listen to women’s singing voices (they used a strategy of inserting their speech in counterpoint to the singing). The lyrics were written by a woman. KolRom is based in Baltimore, not Beit Shemesh.

      If I thought Esther was marginalized by the film or that the film were actually bad for women, I’d say so. My personal opinion is that the film is hilarious and creative and a nice change from the standard Purim-season fare. How many jokes can you make about beauty pageants and eunuchs and hiding your name?

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