StoryNearly every biblical film is ambitious, creating pictures to go with some of the most famous and sacred stories in the Western world. DreamWorks' first animated film was the vision of executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg after his ugly split from Disney, where he had been acknowledged as a key architect in that studio's rebirth (The Little Mermaid, etc.). His first film for the company he helped create was a huge, challenging project without a single toy or merchandising tie-in, the backbone du jour of family entertainment in the 1990s.
Three directors and 16 writers succeed in carrying out much of Katzenberg's vision. The linear story of Moses is crisply told, and the look of the film is stunning; indeed, no animated film has looked so ready to be placed in the Louvre since Fantasia. Here is an Egypt alive with energetic bustle and pristine buildings. Born a slave and set adrift in the river, Moses (voiced by Val Kilmer) is raised as the son of Pharaoh Seti (Patrick Stewart) and is a fitting rival for his stepbrother Rameses (Ralph Fiennes). When he learns of his roots--in a knockout sequence in which hieroglyphics come alive--he flees to the desert, where he finds his roots and heeds God's calling to free the slaves from Egypt.
Katzenberg and his artists are careful to tread lightly on religious boundaries. The film stops at the parting of the Red Sea, only showing the Ten Commandments--without commentary--as the film's coda. Music is a big part (there were three CDs released) and Hans Zimmer's score and Stephen Schwartz's songs work well--in fact the pop-ready, Oscar-winning "When You Believe" is one of the weakest songs. Kids ages 5 and up should be able to handle the referenced violence; the film doesn't shy away from what Egyptians did to their slaves. Perhaps Katzenberg could have aimed lower and made a more successful animated film, but then again, what's a heaven for? --Doug Thomas
|Helen Mirren||The Queen|
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