It’s a cartoon. And The Prince of Egypt (DreamWorks) is a good cartoon. You could call it a film, but it’s closer to Fievel Goes West than The Ten Commandments.
DreamWorks will try to tell you it’s an event, an extravaganza that will reinvent the world of animation. But the film never surpasses mediocrity.
The Prince of Egypt focuses on the story of the Exodus. As a young man, Moses follows the word of God solely out of fear. As time passes, he matures spiritually and passionately takes on the crusade. The story line is a timeless fable, and it played to perfection in The Ten Commandments, but it doesn’t click in The Prince of Egypt.
In The Ten Commandments, looking into Heston’s eyes, you feel the pain, fear and uncertainty Moses experienced during his confrontations with the pharaoh. In Prince of Egypt, when you look into the eyes of Moses, all you see is Crayola No. 5. The spark holding the story together is lost in the animated translation.
The greatest misconception about The Prince of Egypt is its target audience. It is not for children; it is instead intended for adults. Scenes of crocodiles eating babies and the slaying of first-born children are too much for the Aladdin crowd.
The producers’ goal is to compete with holiday blockbusters. But The Prince of Egypt is such an adult film that it alienates its most compatible audience. A better approach would have been to create a story line more enticing to children, yet retaining some of the sophisticated undertones an older crowd enjoys.
To its credit, the animation is great. In one early scene, Moses and Rameses race through Egypt on horseback, riding past temples, pyramids and sphinxes that look majestically real. The most anticipated part of the story – the parting of the Red Sea – is a fantastic scene, even in animation.
When the Hebrew people pack for Canaan, you know the sea is going to part soon. They walk, and you wait. They walk some more, and you wait some more. It has been a long a film, and you just want to watch the sea split. When it finally happens, the animation is spectacular. The water breaks and rushes up in to two walls with such force that the hairs on your arm stand on end and your spine tingles. It is an amazing scene – maybe even worth the price of admission.