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Prince of Egypt

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Prince of Egypt

Starring: Val Kilmer, Sandra Bullock
Director: Brenda Chapman
Rated: PG
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: December 1998
Genres: Animation, Kids, Music




Review by AlexI
4 stars out of 4

DreamWorks has struck gold with their first animated feature, "The Prince of Egypt". It's a completely unexpected triumph that will undoubtedly open new doors and new possibilities in animation. A daring, breathtaking, dramatic and powerful musical masterpiece and an artful, mature alternative to Disney. An emotional and visually stunning tour de force that lifts the art of animation to new hights. This could be the greatest animated feature ever created. Although it is still magical and entertaining (without being ashamed of it), it has a premise that is more interesting and serious that we're used to. It's an artful alternative to Disney's various mermaids, lions, beauties and beasts. It is simply a more sophisticated subject.

The film opens with a pray, a cry for freedom. The giant Sphinx standing amidst the vast, dreamy landscape and the sea of Hebrew slaves working under the burning sun. Egyptian soldiers with swords, bloodied with children's blood are roaming the Jewish settlement. Amidst this blood, cry and madness, a Hebrew mother, places her infant son in a basket and sets him adrift on the Nile River. The burning houses and screams of terror slowly fade away as the basket disappears in the river. After a perilous journey, the basket floats near the royal palace, where it is spotted by the Queen. As she approaches the basket with her young son nearby, she marvels at the beautiful infant boy inside. She names the baby Moses and adopts him as her own...

This is an emotional adaptation of the Exodus, resembling a stimulating drama, rather than a kiddy cartoon. Every effort is made to stress that Moses is a major figure in the Old and New Testaments and the Koran. It tells the story of the Hebrew slave Moses, that became one of the greatest profets of our time. Raised with a rambunctious adopted brother Rameses (Ralph Fiennes), Moses (Val Kilmer) lives and content life, among the Egyptian royalty. As teens the young princes are full of vinegar, charging at breakneck speeds in their chariots, while all around them the Hebrew slaves do endless toil under the ruthless Pharaoh Seti (Patric Stewart). Raised to believe they're brothers, they continue to have a strong connection even after God's will sets them on a collision course. With time Moses starts to discover the dark side to this paradise. Rameses is appointed regent and honors Moses with a Jewish slave as a concubine -- a wild beauty named Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer ). That night as Moses returns to his room, he discovers that Tzipporah has escaped. Intrigued by the rebellious girl, he follows her through the Hebrew settlement of Goshen where he comes upon his true siblings, Miriam (Sandra Bullock) and Aaron (Jeff Coldblum ). Believing that Moses has returned to help them, Miriam reveals to Moses the truth about his identity, that he is the son of a Hebrew slave. Shocked and dismayed, Moses refuses to believe her and flees back to the palace. That night he has a nightmare about the slaughter of the newborn Hebrews many years ago. Confused, shocked and angry, he realizes that his entire life has been a lie. Fleeing to the desert to sort out his feelings about his true identity, Moses ends up in Midiante, a peaceful village surrounded by majestic mountains. Here, away from the glamour and his past existence, he finds another life. A life of peace and harmony. Here he encounters Tzipporah and her family. Jethro, Tzipporah's father (Danny Glover) and the High Priest of Midian, welcomes him into their tribe. As the years pass, Moses and Tzipporah fall in love and build a contented life as humble shepherds. One day as Moses goes in search of a wayward sheep, he comes across an unearthly sight -- a burning bush that is not consumed by the flames. To Moses' amazement, he hears the voice of God (also Val Kilmer ), revealing his destiny and calling upon him to return to Egypt and free the Hebrew people. Filled with doubt and fear, but ready to obey his God, Moses returns to his past home, where he discovers that with the passing of years the Pharaoh Seti has died and Rameses has become Pharaoh. This means that he'll have to fight against his former sibling in his quest to free his people..

This is hugely impressive. If DreamWorks can maintain such high standards, Disney can say goodbye to its virtual monopoly on high-quality cartoon features. It is no longer just kiddy animation films, where unwilling parents has to be dragged along. It is simply another expression. This is no longer a cartoon, but a work of art. The filmmakers have departed from the animation formula that's practically been carved on stone tablets by Disney, removing the kiddy elements, but keeping the same grandiose theatrical musical style as those Disney epics that have made their way to Broadway. Disney would never have undertaken such tricky and risky ride. This is not a fairy tale. It is a story that has its roots in Jewish, Christian and Islamic religion and believes. The result is nothing less than astounding. It overshadows De Mille's classic "The Ten Commandments" with its emotions, unusual depth and power and some of the spectacular action scenes and chariot races, with its flurry of wheels, horses and rickety wood, almost leaves "Ben Hur" in its dust. "The Prince of Egypt" has several scenes of violence, including the scenes of Egyptian cruelty, that although are not gory or extreme, might seem a bit too realistic for small children. The directors have concentrated on the character of Moses and recreated him as a person, not a hero. The thing I liked mostly about the premise of "Prince of Egypt" is its three dimensionality. Nothing is black and white. There are no good guys, bad guys or amusing clowns. It is a personal, penetrating drama, portraying the struggle of Moses with his adopted Egyptian royal family. Starting with a playful chariot race between Moses and Rameses and ending with their conflict at the Red Sea, the film depicts once-loving brothers at odds.

When it comes to animation, there are not enough words to describe the splendor and complexion of these artists' work. "The Prince of Egypt" is probably the most beautiful animated film ever made. It stuns the viewer with its grandness, beauty and power. Drama is written over the entire film. The grandness and majesty of the ancient Egypt is brought to life like never before: giant statuary, pyramids and temples adorned with intricate, colorful hieroglyphics. This kind of visuals are completely impossible to create on set, in live-action films. The filmmakers seamlessly combine painting and computer graphics, filling the screen with dense, richly layered animation. In one particularly inventive dream sequence, even the hieroglyphics come to life. God was heavily into special effects - when Moses returns to free his people, he brings along a rod that turns into a snake, that turns the Nile into blood, brings on all manner of plagues and pestilence, and, for the big finish, parts the Red Sea. The lustrous colors and loving care given to the faces are especially noteworthy. The traditional animation ratio of forehead to eyes, nose and mouth has been altered slightly to give the characters more room for subtle physical communication. The change allows Moses to deliver a number of smoldering glances that are pretty expressive for a 2D man. The music is also incredible. Hans Zimmer's grand, emotional musical score echoing in the background, and several wonderful songs (including the philosophical croon "Through Heaven's Eyes" and the magnificent "When You Believe", preformed by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey), create an atmosphere that is indescribable and is to see nowhere else.

"The Prince of Egypt" breaks away from the ancient traditions of animation, by exploring new territories. It is a fabulous and magical refreshment from Disney's cliché-ridden cartoons. This film raises several philosophical questions, that De Mille never touched. It tells the story of a man that was the only one that could speak directly to God and become his messenger -- an honor he didn't ask for and didn't want. To be the chosen one doesn't have to be a blessing. "The Prince of Egypt" is a celebration of the human spirit, retelling the undying story of a man that caused a miraculous victory that would lay a foundation for the birth of a new nation. And yet it is a personal tragedy -- a life broken by destiny. Moses' life is forever changed. He had to see hundreds of innocent children die and his own brother parish. It is a beautiful and dramatic tale about finding yourself, about life, fate and destiny.

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