The Prince Of Egypt
Dreamworks // PG // $34.98
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 4, 2000
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Dreamworks animation has done it again. After making a wonderful adult comedy in "Antz", they have brought about what should be known as a true classic in the field of animation, telling the story of Moses from when he was found along the banks of the nile river to him as a boy, to his life as a man.

We start off with Moses as a boy, racing around on chariots against his brother Ramses through the streets in a very thrilling and well animated scene in the early portion the film; the sequence ends with a bang as they race down collapsing scaffolds and through a wave of sand out into the desert. The two young men live to have fun and, in the future, are "destined" to be the head and co-head rulers of Egypt.

One night though, Moses comes upon his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam(Jeff Goldblum/Sandra Bullock); although he doesn't believe at first that he is not of the Egyptian people, there is a dream sequence where the drawings on the walls of the pyramid become animated that is an absolute sight to behold as the soldiers march across the walls of the temple, giving chase to Moses and his people.

Moses begins to believe; he turns upon one of the guards who beats the slaves and throws him from the scaffolds to his death. Moses than flees Egypt into the desert, finding the voice of god in the moutains, giving him the strength and courage to go back to Egypt and lead his people to freedom.

He comes back to tell his brother Ramses, now Pharoah, to tell him to "let his people go". Ramses is at first humored by the comment, thinking Moses is just playing another one of his childhood jokes; then he turns angered as he realizes that there's nothing false in his statements. He denies the request and sends Moses into the fields with the slaves, which then leads to a series of some of the most spectacular animated scenes I have ever witnessed as god punishes the Egyptians as fire rains, locusts descend and the first born are killed.

Finally, Ramses agrees to let Moses and his people go; he follows them with his army into the desert, though, which leads to what will be known as a classic and spectacular scene as Moses parts the Red Sea.

Acting/Vocals are quite good across the board, with the voices of: Val Kilmer(Moses), Ralph Fiennes(Ramses), Sandra Bullock(Miriam), Jeff Goldblum(Aaron) and more contributing. What it thankfully isn't, is in the Disney sense, with cute sidekicks and jokes.

"The Prince Of Egypt" is definitely an adult film and I'm not quite sure if it will appeal to kids younger than 8 or so years old; those who do decide to see it though will be amazed by what the animators behind this project have done. They have made the first "event" animation film and I have to say that this film is the most impressive animated feature I have ever seen; the visuals are absolutely outstanding in a year of films that have taken us, visually, to places we have never been; "What Dreams May Come" and "Pleasantville", along with this picture, signal a hopeful change in the way that films are being made, it's as if Hollywood is only now realizing that the boundary of their work is only the limit of their imaginations. "Prince Of Egypt", with its great voice-work, wonderous animation and excellent script, is really something that I hope that entire families will go see, although again, I'm not sure that the very young will enjoy it. This is really, as far as I'm concerned, the best animation ever presented in a domestic release.Dreamworks has really come a long way since its first film, the horrid actioner "The Peacemaker"; films like "Antz", "Prince Of Egypt" and even, a little bit, "Deep Impact", make me very excited to see what comes out of this studio in the future. Both "Antz" and "Prince Of Egypt" should make Disney very, very scared.

"Prince Of Egypt" is a powerful and beautiful work of art; "Antz" is a witty, wonderfully funny piece of work. Dreamworks has come out with an excellent one-two punch in the animation ring.

Both "Prince Of Egypt" and "Antz" will likely end up on my best films of the year list; there are definitely scenes in "Prince" that I will never forget and that deserve to be treasured.

The DVD VIDEO: As with their edition of "Antz", Dreamworks has presented "Prince Of Egypt" with what is really almost a flawless anamorphic transfer. Colors are thrillingly well saturated and gorgeous, absolutely rich and pure. They look simply flawless here, as beautiful as they did when I saw this film in the theater. Images are crystal clear and razor sharp, looking as spectacular as when I saw them on the big screen.

In terms of problems with artifacts: there aren't any. This is a DVD without problems whatsoever: no pixelization, no shimmering, no nothing. This is a completely smooth, completely film-like transfer from an absolutely pristine source. I can almost guarantee that the upcoming animation DVDs from Disney will not look this good(and they certainly won't have the amount of extras).
SOUND: An outstanding and enveloping sound mix, from the outstanding songs to quite a few instances of great action(such as the Chariot Race) that you're put right in the middle of, creating a very wide sound field. The sandstorm, for example- it feels as if the winds are all around you. Really cool stuff. The sound is clear, clean and dynamic, with instances of really rich, strong bass and effective surround use. The fantastic Hans Zimmer score is crystal clear and pure and dialogue is natural as well.

MENUS: Wonderfully animated with film-themed motion, Dreamworks again makes menus that are not only exciting to look through, but easy to navigate. Definitely excellent.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: An informative and interesting commentary from directors Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells and Steve Hickner. A lot of the commentary is spent focusing on the history of the story and how it was built into the movie. Those who are intrested in animation or are planning on going into the animation field should certainly take a listen as the group talks about their ideas for a visual style and ideas/concepts for the film and the animated style. The group does also talks as well about what it was like to work with the various actors. Still, the most interesting pieces of this discussion focus on the amazing amount of work and detail that went into animating this film. There are thankfully no pauses in the commentary as the three talk consistently throughout the picture.

"The Making Of 'The Prince Of Egypt'": A very well-done look into the making of the film, with interviews with the cast that did the voices as well as the crew. What really is quite interesting are the clips of how the animators went about building the film. The interviews are certainly interesting as all involved bring their insights on the picture, but what I really enjoyed was getting a behind-the-scenes look at the animation. I mean, this picture involved more than 400 animators and technicians. All of these people have worked together to create something that I believe is really special and should be remembered for a long time to come. This documentary is really well produced and runs about 25 minutes.

"When You Believe": This is another fascinating extra that informs us that the film had to be play across many countries across the globe and how they had to get people who could flawlessly reproduce the film's dialogue in diffrent languages. The film then plays the "When You Believe" sequence, but it goes through every language that the film played in during the song and it's really astounding how similar all of the people who did the voices sound to each other. Although this is a small section, it really was amazing at how many different languages had to be recorded and how close the voices resemble each other. It's kind of hard to explain, but once viewers see this, I think they'll be as amazed as I was.

Basics Of Animation: The Chariot Race: A documentary focusing on how the chariot race scene was built. The documentary here starts with a short talk from the directors, then goes into the steps that went into animating the scene- we get to see the basic story reel, which just shows the absolute basics of how the scene will play. These are basically storyboards. We then are shown the rough animation(the "work in progress"), which puts in more of the details of the scene and the environments. We then see all 4 reels on the same screen and can compare all of the steps that it took to bring this scene to the screen. Two of the directors also comment through this presentation. This documentary runs about 9 minutes.

Focus on Technical Effects: This is an additional documentary that takes us even further behind-the-scenes into the making of the movie, from original concepts for the animation to the final effects. The documentary gives us clips of the animators at work while a narrator leads us through exactly what is going on. I was really pleased to see this documentary- after wanting to know and see more about the details of what went into the animation after watching the 26 minute "Making Of" presenation, this documentary certainly fills in the details about the amazing effects that went into animating this feature. This documentary runs about 6 minutes, but really offers a great amount of info.

Art Gallery: An art gallery "in motion" here, as we get to see a lot of original concept art with the Hans Zimmer score playing behind it as the presentation takes us through quite a lot of images.

Sneak Previews: Sneak preview trailers for both of Dreamworks upcoming animated features: "The Road To El Dorado" and "Chicken Run".

Trailers: 2 Trailers for "The Prince Of Egypt".

Also:: Production notes and cast/crew bios.

Final Thoughts: If this isn't a must own DVD, I don't know what is. Not only is it an outstanding special edition, but this is really a phenomenal animated film. "Prince Of Egypt" was one of my picks for the top 5 films of 1998 and I really can't recommend it enough. The DVD contains a breathtakingly goregous image and wonderful audio. This recieves one of the highest DVD grades I've given and it certainly deserves it. A must own.



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