The Prince of Egypt (1998)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Animated Musical, Religious Epic  |   Release Date - Dec 18, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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As many critics correctly noted, Dreamworks missed a golden opportunity in its first animated feature to assert a distinct visual style, preferring to imitate the familiar Disney look, hence paying its primary competitor a huge compliment. But The Prince of Egypt still exists as a mature first foray into the market by the young studio. It's nothing if not grand, complete with towering pyramids, electric chariot races, and a first-rate parting of the Red Sea. The film's greater accomplishment is making The Bible accessible to those unwilling to slog through chapter and verse -- namely, children. Hearing the idiosyncratic and inescapably modern speech patterns of Sandra Bullock and Jeff Goldblum may take viewers completely out of the Biblical moment, but those with greater screen time, notably Ralph Fiennes as Rameses, fare much better. The hit title song, popularized by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, lends a certain frivolity to religious characters and situations that might be conveyed more soberly -- a necessary part of selling the film as a phenomenon of multiple media. But the animators make up for it with their dignified renderings of the landscape and its people, showing a particular ability to wow with their chilling depiction of the ten plagues, as remarkable for what's left unseen as what's visualized. The Prince of Egypt is a tight and effective depiction of brothers torn apart by their differing beliefs in the right course of action, simultaneously personal and large-scale -- a solid story on its own, which also happens to be the foundation for both Christian and Jewish scripture.