Latest Version of The Ten Commandments Comes Up Short
- Thursday, February 28, 2008
DVD Release Date: February 5, 2008
Rating: PG (for some mild peril)
Run Time: 88 min.
Director: John Stronach
Voices by: Ben Kingsley, Christian Slater, Alfred Molina, Elliot Gould, Christopher Gaze
Like its surprisingly similar cousin, The Prince of Egypt, this CGI version of The Ten Commandments begins with a toned-down slaughter of the Hebrew baby boys in Egypt, followed by Moses in the reed basket. Flash forward a few years, and Prince Moses (Christian Slater) is at odds with his cousin, Ramses (Alfred Molina), as well as his not-so-kindly Uncle Pharaoh.
When Moses accidentally kills a slave driver, his brother Aaron (Christopher Gaze) happens to witness the incident and tells Moses the truth about his birth. He then provides an escape donkey. Moses heads to the desert, where he marries and has sons. After God (Elliot Gould) speaks to Moses through the burning bush, he runs into Aaron and together, they go to Egypt to confront Ramses, the ruling pharaoh.
He’s meek, this Moses, so it’s no wonder that his adoptive cousin doesn’t listen, even as plague after plague rains down upon the Egyptians. Ramses holds firm until his firstborn son dies, on the night that is now known as Passover. Accompanied by his brother and sister, Miriam, Moses finally leads the Hebrews out of Egypt. In the desert, the Israelites (as they are now called) grumble and complain until God provides water. They grumble until he provides food. They complain until they get meat, in the form of quail. Then they dance around and worship a golden calf, while Moses is with the Lord. When he comes back and discovers their sacrilege, he throws down the tablets of the Ten Commandments and pronounces doom on those who do not repent. His prophecy comes true when the earth opens up and swallows them amidst flames of fire.
Many years later, the Israelites arrive at edge of the Promised Land. Moses explains that he and his generation will not be allowed to see it, because of their rebellion, and charges Joshua with leading them across the River Jordan. He goes onto the mountain to die as the people go forth.
The Bible has always been a source of inspiration and although many films have been made about Moses, many more are sure to come. Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 version will always be the classic by which others are judged. Animated versions are likely to be compared to DreamWork’s 1998 film, The Prince of Egypt. Unfortunately, despite an all-star cast, this version comes up decidedly short.
The narrative contains little originality. An opening scene, where Moses and Ramses tussle, is strikingly similar to one in The Prince of Egypt. Screenwriter Ed Naha (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) also copied another creative invention from that film. Instead of drowning with his army (which the biblical narrative implies), Ramses stands on the banks and watches, horrified. Even more disappointing than the writing, however, is the quality of the animation. With perfectly smooth faces, hair that doesn’t move and bodies that walk like robots, it’s simplistic, at best.
Ben Kingsley’s narration, though solid, is somewhat superfluous, since Naha has failed to include many details about the story. Despite his reputation for comedy, Gould does a decent job as God. Slater, however, doesn’t bring much personality to Moses. Surely this prophet, though humble, had more chutzpah than this?
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