His People Go
|"Prince of Egypt"
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
As the stranglehold on quality animated features once held by Disney has weakened, we can expect a glut of animated movies to hit the local multiplexes, since they are extremely profitable to the studios when marketed correctly. Every parent will have, somewhere in the recesses of their home, a toy of the cartoon-du-jour picked up from one fast-food place or another.
Featuring a stellar cast of vocal talent, "Prince of Egypt" retells the story of Exodus. Those familiar with the Bible (or, at least, who have viewed "The Ten Commandments" any number of times) will know the story: A fearful mother, watching the children of Israel being slaughtered at Pharoah's command, puts her son into the waters of the Nile to escape the sword.
Plucked out of the Nile by Pharoah's wife, young Moses (Val Kilmer) grows up to be a bit of a hellion, a constant rival to the Pharoah's legitimate son and heir Ramses (Ralph Fiennes). The two, however, have developed a bond that, while tested occasionally, proves strong.
Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer), a high-spirited slave from Midian, proves to be the undoing of the Prince as he allows her to escape, then attempts to follow her, only to run into his actual brother Aaron (Jeff Goldblum) and sister (Sandra Bullock), who tell him who he really is. Confused, Moses finds his erstwhile father Seti (Patrick Stewart), who confirms his heritage, and the terrible act that brought Moses to him.
Horrified, Moses flees Egypt and makes his way to Midian.
Jethro, the Sheikh of Midian (Danny Glover) takes him into his home and his heart. Eventually, Moses marries Jethro's daughter Tzipporah (surprising how convenient these Bible epics can be). However, Moses destiny is changed forever when he encounters a burning bush while chasing a lost goat. The bush is the manifestation of the Almighty, who directs Moses to return to Egypt and free the Israelites.
Most people should know how the story ends.
A great deal of dramatic license is taken here, although to be fair they do warn you at the beginning of the movie, and to the credit of the filmmakers they do refer you to Biblical sources for the lowdown.
Still, it's disconcerting to see figures such as Yeshua and others written out or reduced to minor roles.
The animation is gorgeous. The special effects of the Parting of the Red Sea, the Pillar of Fire and the multiple plagues are breathtaking. The songs are a bit treacly (and I can do without hearing that diva duet between Whitney and Mariah ever again - have two more overrated performers ever shared the same stage?), but all in all, this is one animated movie that is not going to put either restless kiddies or their long-suffering parents to sleep.
It's nice when a kidflick comes out with at least a worthwhile message and some intrinsic value beyond its marketing scheme. While watching "The Prince of Egypt" is no substitute for reading Exodus, it does make a worthy substitute.
Theater or Video?