Written by: Kelly Asbury & Lorna Cook along with 14 other people, based on the book of Exodus
Directed by: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, & Simon Wells
Starring: Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock
My Advice: Wait and Rent It.
To escape a culling of Hebrew firstborns, Moses (Kilmer) is placed in a CGI basket by his mother and set adrift, only to wind up in the arms of Egypt’s Queen (Helen Mirren) and become a…prince of Egypt. He flees the kingdom once he learns of his true heritage and finds peace in Midian and winds up marrying Pocahontas (Pfeiffer). Content at first, he’s called on by God (Kilmer) to go into Egypt and lead the Hebrews out of slavery.
That’s right, it’s the book of Exodus. They’ve thrown in some unnecessary action sequences, i.e. a Ben Hur chariot race down the scaffolding of a monument whilst the nose of said monument is a close third, but all in all, you’ve got Exodus. And therein lies the problem with this film: it tries too hard to do too much. The story is big and broad enough as it is, it doesn’t need add-ons. It’s almost like they set out to out-Disney Disney. For example, apart from the opening “Deliver Us,” the songs are all unnecessary and painfully intrusive. Every time somebody needs to explain something, suddenly–! There’s a song going–and I’m cringing.
[ad#longpost]Then there are the superfluous characters, such as the priests of Ra that Rameses (Fiennes) has by his side, who are voiced by Steve Martin and Martin Short. They are there to provide some modicum of evil magic and also to sing a lamentable song that could have been a showstopper but instead resorts to cataloging Egyptian deities. There’s a short one and a tall one, and I couldn’t even tell you what their names were. And what’s with ripping off The Lion King with the opening and closing sequences, with the big drum beat, designed to send chills through the audience but failing?
The vocal performances are all respectable, especially Fiennes as the flawed older brother then pharoah. When he and Kilmer are going at it as two leaders doing brother vs. brother, the movie gets interesting, but those moments don’t last. The animation has its moments–the Red Sea parting is spectacular, the burning bush rather interesting–but apart from the special effects the Christian God is relegated to, it’s old hat. And it is truly a shame that the God effects are ripoffs of everything from Raiders to Close Encounters.
The thing is: when you have a story that’s this powerful and unforgettable and the movie winds up being watered down and forgettable–you know the process screwed you over. I commend DreamWorks for tackling this material, but their execution leaves a lot to be desired.