The story of Moses, the first part of it anyway, is finally given the sort of lavish, feature-length-cartoon treatment God intended in The Prince Of Egypt, Dreamworks' traditional animation debut. As with Antz, the studio's stab at Pixar-style computer animation, Dreamworks again proves that it can't think beyond the Disney bubble, and, again as with Antz, it does a pretty good job working within that bubble. But not great, although The Prince Of Egypt has its moments of greatness. Most but not all of these come courtesy of the no-expenses-spared animation: From the moment Moses (Val Kilmer) and Rameses (Ralph Fiennes, whose voice characterization suggests that Rameses comes from some unrecorded Anglo-Egyptian settlement) rush headlong down a scaffold pursued by the disembodied nose of a sculpture to the parting of the Red Sea, the film looks incredible. What's more impressive is the thought behind the animation: Arranged like dramatic tableaux, many of the scenes have a bold, almost expressionistic quality, making The Prince Of Egypt worth seeing simply as something to see. Somewhat surprisingly, the story of Moses' struggle with the Egyptian Pharaoh has also been left with its fangs more or less in place, with God's killing of the first-born children a strikingly dark moment. Still, Prince's more conventional elements drag it down. Kilmer's Moses never develops into a fully fleshed-out character, and while Stephen Schwartz's mediocre songs suffice—and have been better integrated into the story than those in, say, Mulan—they still seem horribly out of place. Rendering in high drama the story of Moses one moment and then underscoring that drama with songs filled with banal "you-can-make-it-if-you-really-try" cliches moves from the sublime to the ridiculous so quickly, you could get the bends.
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