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Prince of Egypt delivers a fine interpretation of the story of Moses

The Prince of Egypt

MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 90 min.
Starring: voices of Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes

Rating: *** and 1/2 (out of five)

By Jason Caesar Consolacion
Co-Entertainment Editor

The biblical story of Moses from the book of Exodus is one that has impelled the imagination of storytellers from novelists to filmmakers.

In 1956, Cecil B. DeMille directed the epic, The Ten Commandments, which starred Charleston Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as the proud, jealous brother, Rameses. The three-and-a-half-hour film was way ahead of its time, winning an Oscar for special effects.

DeMille’s version featured the morphing of Moses’ staff to a serpent and the parting of the Red Sea to free the Hebrew slaves. This was considered advanced filmmaking in 1956 and the exquisite direction made the film one of the best motion pictures of all time.

Forty-two years later, DreamWorks Pictures presents The Prince of Egypt, an animated spectacle based on the journey of Moses from slave to prince to deliverer.

Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

(Left to right) Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer), Moses (Val Kilmer), Miriam (Sandra Bullock) and Aaron (Jeff Goldblum) lead the Hebrews out of Egypt in the new DreamWorks picture, The Price of Egypt.

Directed by Brenda Chapman (story trainee for The Little Mermaid), Steve Hickner (associate producer of An American Tail II: Fievel Goes West and assistant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Simon Wells (supervisor for Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future Parts II and III), the film features the art direction of Kathy Altieri (who assisted in the artwork of such films as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King) and Richard Chavez (Mulan).

The film also features the voices of Val Kilmer (The Saint) as Moses, Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) as Rameses, Michelle Pfeiffer (One Fine Day) as Moses’ wife, Tzipporah, Sandra Bullock (Hope Floats) and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) as Moses’ siblings Miriam and Aaron, Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) as Tzipporah’s father Jethro and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) as the Pharaoh Seti.

Steve Martin (L.A. Story) and Martin Short (Mars Attacks!) make featured cameos as the Pharaoh’s servants, Hotep and Huy, while Helen Mirren (The Madness of King George) contributes as the voice of Moses’ stepmother, the queen.

Grammy-nominated singer Amick Byram (The Lion King and Aladdin) contributes the singing voice of Moses while Sally Dworsky (The Lion King) and Grammy-nominated Ofra Haza also lend their vocal chords to the film’s original soundtrack.

Despite all the talent and work put into the film, it only lasts about an hour and a half. I was literally three sips into my large Dr. Pepper when the movie ended. It culminates quite abruptly, as well. In The Ten Commandments, you’re not even through the first video tape in 90 minutes.

However, jam-packed in those 90 minutes are a collection of impeccable animation and some startling special effects. The parting of the Red Sea is one of the most moving animated sequences ever drawn, and is similar to the final scene from The Lion King. In addition, the scenery created to represent Egypt and Seti’s empire is beautiful.

The music, composed by Academy Award-winner Stephen Schwarz (Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Hanz Zimmer (As Good As it Gets and The Lion King), is very nice and contributes appropriately to the plot, but there may have been an overflow of music for the film.

It almost felt like an Elvis movie where someone had to sing about everything that happened. If someone belched, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Rameses broke into song about how loud it was. Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but you get the picture.

It is almost unavoidable to compare The Prince of Egypt with The Ten Commandments. Something the animated film did more of was delve into the relationship between Moses and Rameses. Throughout DeMille’s film, there was always a sense of competition, almost at the level of jealousy between the two.

However, in The Prince of Egypt, a sense camaraderie is much more pronounced and there are no signs of jealousy in Rameses until Moses returns from the desert.

Also, Moses’ conversations with God are not as detailed, nor as frequent, in Prince as they were in Commandments. In fact, he only confronts the burning bush once in Prince, though there were numerous confrontations in Commandments.

Finally, the presentation of the ten commandments only receives a few seconds of recognition in Prince while it took up most of the second half of Commandments.

Despite the differences, one really cannot compare the two films because they were both approached differently, with unique intentions and methods.

The Prince of Egypt as a whole was inspiring to watch and is a great way to deliver the story of Moses to children. Despite its overabundance of music and the short length of the film, it is an innocent portrayal of one of the greatest stories ever told.

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