Two brothers…united by friendship, divided by destiny.
With The Prince of Egypt DreamWorks has announced that there is a new sheriff in town. No, not just announced, this one bellows from the hilltops "look at me!" This is clearly one of the finest animated DVDs we have ever seen and well worth the retail price of $35.
There really is little need to summarize the story as we all pretty much know that The Prince of Egypt is an animated adaptation of the story of the book of Exodus, much like The Ten Commandments before it. But don't expect just a rehashed version of The Ten Commandments. On the contrary, there are some interesting takes on a few key scenes here.
I do want to point out a particular scene, which I feel was handled exceedingly well and in an incredibly creative fashion. When you get your hands on this disc, be sure to pay close attention to chapter nine where Moses learns the truth about his father condemning the firstborn Hebrew of each family to death. Moses finds out in a dream, and in order to differentiate the dream from reality, the animation switches modes quite dramatically both visually and kinetically. You have to see it to appreciate what I am saying, but the nightmare sequence sticks in my mind as a particularly effective creative decision, not that the others weren't effective or creative.
The video on this disc is absolutely gorgeous. Presented in all its 1.85:1 anamorphic glory, this picture is easily as good as Antz and A Bug's Life. There were no artifacts at all in the presentation and the colors were very, very richly saturated, as one would expect from an animated film. This may be as good as we see for a while when it comes to animation.
The audio, too, was outstanding. The soundtrack is rather unfortunately in English only, but it did offer a choice of a full 5.1 soundtrack or a 2.0 track. I guess that is one of the prices one must pay when the disc is absolutely LOADED with extras. The disc includes a commentary track with the three directors, Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells. Also included are a 25-minute featurette called "The Making of The Prince of Egypt," a 10-minute featurette on the basics of animation and a six-minute featurette on the technical effects in the film. There is also an art gallery of still photos from the film, to theatrical trailers for the film, cast a crew bios and production notes. Lastly, the disc includes two sneak preview trailers (hooray) for DreamWorks' upcoming animated features, one called The Road To El Dorado starring Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branaugh and the other called Chicken Run starring Mel Gibson. The case was even cool. While I prefer the Amaray keep case, this is presented in a gold version of an Amaray-like Alpha keep case. The color is cool.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My only gripe about this disc is the same gripe I have about any and all animation coming from the majors these days. I find the use of famous voices terribly distracting. I wind up spending half the film trying to decide who's who. And I'm someone with a talent for this stuff. I pick up on commercial voice-overs of famous people nearly right away, whether on radio or TV. And for a 30-second spot, I don't mind it so much. But just look at the cast list for this film. Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin and Martin Short. Jesus. That's half the LA chapter of SAG. Give me a break. Aren't there other, talented people who could do these parts justice? I should think so, and most of them would love the opportunity to do the work. And in my opinion, I would find them less distracting. I hardly think people are going to stop going to see animated features simply because a big name star is not in the lead. After all, how did the mouse get by all those years without the big boys? Hmmmmmm?
If it were not for the Ghostbusters disc, this would be my new reference special edition. DreamWorks now officially has it down! They have the right price for a well-equipped disc. Hey Disney! While you were busy watching your rear view mirror, someone cut in front of you. As I said, there's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Katzenberg.
Acquitted on all counts.
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