[Screen It]

(2007) (voices of Christian Slater, Alfred Molina) (PG)

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Drama: A shepherd must contend with his cousin, the Pharaoh, when chosen by God to lead the Hebrews out of ancient Egypt.
In this retelling of the classic Old Testament tale, our narrator (voice of BEN KINGSLEY) sets the stage for the story. In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh is worried about the growing number of Hebrew children and thus orders that all male infants be killed. But Baby Moses' mother sets him adrift in a basket on the Nile and he's later found and adopted by a princess.

He later grows up to be Moses (voice of CHRISTIAN SLATER), cousin to Ramses (voice of ALFRED MOLINA), the future Pharaoh of Egypt. Unlike his relative who doesn't mind the mistreatment and death of slaves, Moses is bothered by that. One day, when trying to stop a guard from abusing one, Moses ends up killing the guard in self-defense. Spared by Pharaoh but banished from Egypt by Ramses, Moses wanders the desert until eventually finding his future wife, having children, and becoming a shepherd.

It's then that he encounters God (voice of ELLIOT GOULD) who wants the humble man to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt and to the promised land. Moses is uncertain, but when God shows him His powers, the shepherd sets out to ask Ramses to let his people go. Now Pharaoh, Ramses sees himself as Egypt's only god, and thus doesn't honor his cousin's request.

Even after Moses and God bring a number of plagues upon the ruler and his people, Ramses remains defiant. It's only when death takes the lives of all first-born males in the city, does Ramses relent, and orders the slaves freed. Accompanied by his brother, Aaron (voice of CHRISTOPHER GAZE), and sister, Miriam (voice of KATHLEEN BARR), Moses sets out on a pilgrimage for the land of milk and honey.

Along the way, however, his resolve is repeatedly tested, not only by Ramses who now comes after him with his army, but also various dire circumstances, as well as naysayers such as Dathan (voice of LEE TOCKAR) who poison the others' minds with fear and doubt.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Our new reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Reportedly the first of 12 Biblical tales that will be brought to the screen by a new production house, this one's obvious strength is its dramatically powerful source material. Of course, it's been adapted before - and far better - in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille version starring Charlton Heston, and in "The Prince of Egypt" from 1998.

Like the latter film, this one is animated, albeit in a clunky, computer-animated fashion that looks like something Pixar might have released as incomplete test footage back when they were first getting started. Younger kids might not mind, but older ones and certainly adults will likely wonder why everything (particularly the characters) looks so primitive.

Throw in some contemporary sounding dialogue (at times, lines such as, "Are we there yet?" grace the screen), little bits of attempted humor, and some artistic liberties with the Old Testament tale, and the result is a less than satisfactory experience. The film rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 19, 2007 / Posted October 19, 2007

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