Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Prince Of Egypt (1998)

Be warned. I will be starting this review, as I sometimes do, with a bit of a ramble. But I do have a point. I sometimes use this blog to promote my personal views on subjects that I feel strongly about. Sometimes. The reasons I don't do it more often are that a) it's a MOVIE blog and b) I may often think I know what I'm talking about, but am wise enough to remember just how much I also don't know about any given subject. Having said that, one of my personal stances that I am happy to mention, but simply feel little need to go on about, is the fact that I'm an atheist. I have mentioned my lack of religious belief in other movie reviews, especially when the film being watched and reviewed is something with a very spiritual core, but it doesn't happen often because I don't think it really matters all that much if the movie succeeds in whatever it sets out to do. I also try not to offend people with religious beliefs because I love personal freedoms and the power to believe in anything as much as I loathe organised religion and what warped readings of ancient texts can do to certain, misguided, individuals.

Why do I need to say all this at the start of a review of an animated movie about the life of Moses? Do I need to have firm religious beliefs to enjoy this film? No, of course not. Not at all. Although it might help. The strange thing is that I have always loved the better-known biblical tales and the parables that I was taught as a young boy. I think that they're decent stories, often with a good moral to take away and think about them. Decent stories, from any source, should make for decent movies. Sadly, that's not the case here.

The life of Moses (voiced here by Val Kilmer) is an exciting one. It starts with the young boy being sent downriver in his baby basket to save him from slavery and/or death and develops into a tale that includes a burning bush, a bit of strife with Rameses (Ralph Fiennes), ten terrible plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and more.

Exciting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Which is why The Prince Of Egypt is so frustrating for most of its runtime. It's just far too dull. The animation is nice enough, and there are plenty of sequences full of great visuals showcasing a nice stylised take on ancient Egypt, and the vocal cast, including Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny Glover, Steve Martin and Jeff Goldblum among many others, certainly doesn't lack star power. Sadly, the film takes these elements and does nothing with them. Songs are drab and unmemorable, and set-pieces never take off in the way that they should. There are moments when things seem about to lift up, then it just crumples once again.

Philip LaZebnik is the man responsible for the lifeless script, with additional material from Nicholas Meyer, and Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells are the directors failing to find any other ways to liven up the material. Having sat through this while feeling quite bored throughout, I can't imagine any kids ever being enthralled by it. Knowing how much I enjoyed these tales when I first learned of them as a youngster, that just emphasises what a failed opportunity this is.


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