Friday, June 6, 2014

Prince of Egypt (1998)

In the late 1990s, Dreamworks was determined to beat Disney at it’s own game, and threw up some serious competition to the House of the Mouse with Shrek taking on Monsters Inc. and Antz taking on A Bugs Life. But they also attempted to unleash a non-computer animated film, one with a star packed cast, a familiar and yet powerful story, Broadway style songs and even borrow the Lion King’s composer, Hans Zimmer for the musical score. The question is, would all this be enough to put families in the theater?

You may be familiar with the story of Moses (Val Kilmer) the Hebrew prince who lead his people from slavery in Egypt, talked with God and unleashed some plagues. Well, then you’re familiar with the plot to this film. But instead of going the Ten Commandments route, the film actually focuses on the relationship between Moses and his “brother” Rameses (Ralph Finnes). It is this dynamic that drives the story and makes both biblical characters more rounded and relatable.

But all the visual high points are there, including the devastating plagues, the battle between Moses and Pharaoh’s two wizards (voiced by Steve Martin and Martin Short), and the finale chase to and through the Red Sea. With the rest of the voices provided by Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren and James Avery, well you’ll spend half the movie playing a guess the actor game.

Good Points:
  • Some wonderful animation adding scope and power to the story
  • A powerful musical score from Hans Zimmer
  • The brother dynamic makes this familiar story very interesting

Bad Points:
  • Some of the songs don’t quite work within the film
  • Some may find the changes to the story offensive
  • Feels like it is trying too hard at times

If only they had not attempted to turn this into a musical, this could have been a real home run. The size and scope of the visuals are impressive, and bring some real power to the story. The performances are solid, with Fiennes really giving Rameses some additional depth. At times, you can feel how much they wanted to make this film a Disney-killer, by beating them at their own game. But it ends up hurting the film, which should have tried to do it’s own thing. Still, so much of it works, that it is easy to recommend to animation fans, and anyone looking for a different take on the classic story of Moses.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Never saw Prince of Egypt. I thought this was a Disney film, but never paid very close attention to it. I don't have anything against Biblical stories, but I can't say they are high on my list. I could say the same thing about the new Noah film. When I heard about Noah, I was a bit taken aback, not only that a Biblical films might find the light of day to make given the current state of Hollywood films, but also that Darren Aronofsky would take on the project. Both films sort of have a built-in audience, you'd think, but on the other hand if not handled just right aren't going to get the automatic seal of approval either. That was certainly the case of Scorsese's film, The Last Temptation of Christ.

    1. Very true, biblical movies do have the built in audience, but they can also have that built in backlash if things don't go according to viewers expectations. Aronofsky's film faced a little of that, but weathered the storm pretty well. I'm curious to see the film, I really like Aronofsky's work, but I'm just not a fan of Crowe. He's a good actor and all, but something about him rubs me the wrong way. My own personal issue. :)

      Just saw "Last Temptation of Christ" for the first time a couple months ago. Very interesting movie. I see what Scorsese was trying to do, but I'm not sure it was entirely successful. It was fascinating to watch, but it didn't grab me like most of his other films have. Something about it just wasn't working. But it was neat to see him tackle such a unique film (for him anyway). A worthy experiment.