The Prince of Egypt
*** GM
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Pfieffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum


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You know, for one of those toll-free-number animated Bible videos, this ain't half bad. It's even got famous people doing voices for it.

While telling the story of Moses, "The Prince Of Egypt" gets off to a somewhat sub-par start animation-wise, with some gotta-get-used-to-it fluidity problems and some awkward proportioning, but it overcomes that quickly enough and delivers some very amazing stuff. The parting of the sea and some stunning sandstorms are particularly well done.

Storywise - well, it's a Bible story, so there are going to be strong reactions in both ways. It IS interesting that God is not portrayed as the utterly benevolent, love-all God that is often praised and blindly followed by a lot of people, but as the occasionally testy and lethal power that the Bible often depicts him as. Moses (Val Kilmer) questions the Lord's judgment about choosing him to be the deliverer, God gets mad and basically screams "Because I said so!" at him, ending the debate. Moses' tyrant pharoah father (Patrick Stewart) justifies the slaughter of hundreds of Hebrew infants - done to stem the growth of their numbers, thus making them more easily dominated - by saying 'sometimes, for the greater good...' The pharoah is now a bad guy. Then, God sends locusts, frogs and plagues down against the forces of Rameses (Ralph Fiennes), killing all sorts of kids on his own. Is God's slaughter of children okay because it helps to free the Hebrews? Couldn't he find a better way? I mean, he's God, for Christ's sake.

Fortunately, though, the plague is not one-sidedly depicted as righteous fury raining down upon the evil. It is a tragedy, and it is shown as such. There is a warning before the movie that says artistic license was taken in the story, which I suppose is good, because I'd hate to see Moses' wife (Michelle Pfieffer) rubbing the bloody foreskin of his son all over his feet in order to save him from God's petulant wrath (Exodus 4:24-26 or Ken's Guide To The Bible by Ken Smith p. 28), nor would the story be the same if Exodus 21:20-21 was depicted. This is where God tells Moses that a man who beats his servant or maid to the point of incapacitation, yet doesn't kill the victim, needs no punishment (Ken's Guide To The Bible, p. 29). The warning comes in handy, and hopefully those who would look to this as Bible fact will heed that warning.

So, attempting to put aside my cynicism for the moment, what we have here is an interesting foray into animation from Dreamworks, trying to compete with the monstrous Disney juggernaut. However, this isn't exactly geared towards children, what with all the rampant death and not a cute talking animal to be found. It focuses on the tortured relationship between Moses and Rameses (although I could have sworn his name was Ramses) as they must deal with their brotherly love for each other and their polar opposite goals and ideals.

The famous voices are occasionally a bit distracting, what with the glaringly obvious voices of Sandra Bullock and Jeff Goldblum popping up occasionally. Luckily, Kilmer and Fiennes are non-descript enough to go unnoticed by those who aren't looking for them.

"The Prince of Egypt" is a noble and commendable effort. The subject matter may be occasionally polarizing, but looking at it for what it is rather than what one reads into it is the key to appreciating it.

Side note - every animated film that comes out is usually hailed by someone as a "masterpiece." Somtimes even "another masterpiece." Isn't the whole POINT of a masterpiece the fact that there is only ONE of them? The other pieces are good, but the BEST one is the MASTERPIECE. I get a little sick of the misuse of words sometimes. Go read George Carlin's "Brain Droppings." He'll sort you out on a lot of that stuff - including "irony," "kudos" and why American Indian is preferred over Native American. He's also hilarious. Tip o' The Day.

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