|THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998)|
Brenda Chapman &
|"I will not be dictated to, I will not be threatened. I am the morning and evening star, I am Pharaoh!"|
|Time: 97 mins.|
Official Web Site
Won Academy Award for Best Original Song. Nomination for Best Original Score.
I'm not generally a big fan of animated films, even though they are the closest thing we have these days to movie musicals. Most have lame plots and seem to be thrown together around the same characters bright, beautiful, headstrong girl; handsome, carefree young man with an anger control problem; a villain with a heart of pure evil who wants nothing more than to destroy the girl and rule the world, plus assorted funny, kooky sidekicks. The music is either bright and fun or dark and sinister with romance being the main plot point and the sidekicks thrown in for comic relief.
The main reason I actually enjoyed THE PRINCE OF EGYPT was because it wasn't the same old thing. Yes, it was animated and yes, there was singing, but this is the first animated movie that was actually a film. (Yes, there's a difference between a movie and a film.) It took itself seriously, something future forays into the genre should take note of if they want to be seen as more than just kid flicks. The characters may be hand-drawn, but they have more power than many of the human ones I've seen this year.
Much of the power of this story is innate. Moses led an inherently interesting life, but this still could have been boring. In fact, I was expecting it to be. Lucky for us, the filmmakers made Moses a human being instead of a saint, giving him a personality for us to grab onto. The movie is more about the relationship between him and his brother Ramses than it is about God, but that doesn't diminish the spiritual aspects of the story. It just makes Moses more real. Most people aren't on talking terms with God, so I think it was a smart choice to stick to his real life. The brothers both have their destinies to follow even though they truly care for one another. It's something everyone can relate to. THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is mainly about being true to oneself and your beliefs, even if the path is uncertain and painful.
Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes put in phenomenal performances as Moses and Ramses. It must be very difficult to act with just your voice, but they pull you right in, making you believe these drawings are real flesh and blood. The rest of the cast did a wonderful job as well. The music is good overall with 2 or 3 very powerful numbers (especially "Deliver Us" and "Believe") and only one that was completely lame. I understand they hired two great performers in Steve Martin and Martin Short and wanted to showcase their talent, but "Playing With the Big Boys" is not only an appallingly bad number it's also completely unnecessary to the plot. The directors apparently couldn't resist the impulse to include wacky sidekicks.
Last but not least, let's talk about the animation. The artists have captured a place and time like no other animated film to date. The characters looked like people from the Middle East. There were no big eyes to be found. The scenic shots were incredibly rich in color and design. This is a step up in a big way. The montage of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea are just phenomenal pieces of filmmaking. Not only could these effects not be duplicated in such a grand and beautiful way in real life, you'll be glad they weren't. I didn't know what to expect when the lights dimmed down, and I have to say I was more touched than I thought I would be. THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is first rate filmmaking no matter what you believe in.