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Animated ‘Prince of Egypt:’ epic scale, dramatic intimacy


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Taken from the Old Testament Book of Exodus, the story of Moses and the enslaved Hebrews has been vividly brought to animated musical life in “The Prince of Egypt” through the sophisticated work of DreamWorks Studios.
Cinema is a collaborative art form, and nowhere is that more evident than in the animation genre. Voice characterizations, drawings, concept, music, art design — all must blend harmoniously to make a final product that entertains both little ones and the guardians who brought them. As with such classics as “Sleeping Beauty,” all of the above elements in DreamWorks’ first animated feature prove formidable here as well.
Songsmith Stephen Schwartz (Oscar winner for “Pocahontas”) and composer Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”) contribute the musical numbers. Each song is moving, literate and furthers the story. Overall, the score may not be as memorable as “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast,” but two songs, “I Will Get There” and “When You Believe,” rank structurally alongside any movie melody written in this past decade.
The voice characteristics, led by Val Kilmer as Moses and Ralph Fiennes as Rameses, are all satisfactory, but the prominent star is the animation itself, in which no expense, it seems, has been spared. The artwork recounts the story as well as the dialogue. While using color, contrasts and texture in adroit draftsmanship to highlight emotional experiences in the same way the composer uses music, DreamWorks animators also take full advantage of today’s computer-generated imagery. Add to the aesthetic look the spectacular action effects done with the Red Sea miracle and the burning bush sequence, and you have one animated film that will never be referred to as a mere cartoon.
The bottom line for any movie that intends to live on through cinema history is its story. The Prince of Egypt succeeds because it is taken from one of the 66 best books ever written, the Bible. The dialogue is rich, simplistic and at times poetic, careful to reverently suggest the meaning of the book which spawned this project.
The Prince of Egypt is rated PG for some intensity. Parents should be there to assure little ones during Moses’ nightmare and the plague sequence. It’s one thing reading about the Holy Spirit taking the lives of the firstborn where the house does not display the blood covering. It’s another to see a reenactment.
Never condescending or phlegmatic, The Prince of Egypt is the perfect blend of epic scale and dramatic intimacy. It is well deserving of the epithet “masterpiece.” So DreamWorks, how about a sequel? You’ve told of the Hebrews’ liberator; now how about one concerning the Saviour of the world?
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT — Opens Dec. 18. Starring the voices of Val Kilmer (Moses), Ralph Fiennes (Rameses), Michelle Pfeiffer (Tzipporah, wife of Moses), Sandra Bullock (Miriam, Moses’ sister) and Jeff Goldblum (Aaron). Directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells. Produced by Penney Finkelman Cox, Sandra Rabins. Rated PG for some intense action sequences and for subject matter
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Boatwright, a Baptist layman from Thousand Oaks, Calif., is the editor and reviewer for The Movie Reporter, a monthly film guide from a Christian perspective which can be contacted at www.moviereporter.com.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright