Holy Moses, a Bible story made for a mass audience? The first animated feature from the folks at Dreamworks is ambitious, and crazy enough… it just might work. I’ll start right off by saying hands down this is great animation. The scenes are constructed with beauty and at certain times I did had something stirred inside me from the wondrous eye-candy. People look like people, not sketched cartoons. The animation and movement are so lifelike and fluid that you’ll easily be lost inside it and forget you are indeed watching a film people drawn by hand.
But while the visuals are lavish and splendid and just about every other adjective you can think of, the story suffers. The head folks had difficulty using the story of Moses because three separate religions use that story for their own purposes and beliefs. The trick is not pissing off any of the religions, and the end product is a very vague and gentile Sunday School lesson. They give you the message to believe, but believe in what? It’s never explained. The main characters tread over the thin ice of religious ire, and because of that intimidation they are often vague in descriptions and purpose. The idea of faith is pretty much gagged and taken away to be replaced with the supposedly more noble (and note; more universally agreed upon) issue that slavery is bad. You can’t help but feel a little like the producers chickened out with the material and hid behind the idea of slavery to not rise anyone’s blood pressure over a cartoon tale.
By making Ramses (Ralph Fiennes actually getting his second chance this decade to persecute Jews in a movie) and Moses (Val Kilmer, who also surmises the voice of God, but if God were Kilmer don’t you think he would’ve passed on The Saint?) not so black and white you have established that they are indeed people and both have their reasons for what they each do. You can see the motives and understanding for each, plus the tension and drama gets a shot in the arm.
While the music and message can be easily passable they can’t detract from the greatness that this movie projects with its simple and marvelous visions. You may gasp when the Red Sea is parted. I must confess though after multiple viewings on DVD the story and songs are indeed growing on me as is my impression of the film. This movie is more effective on your TV screen than the big screen.
Nate’s Grade: B