By Renee Longstreet,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Ambitious biblical musical transfers from stage to screen.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Biblical messages are at the core of this film: belief in one God; the Ten Commandments, liberation from oppression, importance of family, forgiveness.
Positive Role Models
Biblical representations: Moses, filled with self-doubt, accepts his role in freeing Israelites from the Egyptian. He is courageous, wise, observant, takes his responsibility seriously. Villains (Egyptians) are idolaters, despots, bullies, murderers. Theatrical cast is ethnically diverse.
Violence & Scariness
On-stage, theatrical violence includes Moses killing a man in shadows; ten plagues descending upon Egyptians (flies, gnats, death of first-born), Moses and his people running from persecutors, who follow. A guard "beats" a slave. Weapons used: a knife, a staff, long wooden spears.
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Name-calling: i.e., "idiot," "cockroach," "animal," "stupid," "Hebrew filth."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Players drink wine in a few sequences.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Moses is a filmed version of an imposing theatrical production. One in a series of plays with biblical origins created by Sight & Sound Theatres, this complex production -- complete with live animals, extravagant sets, luxurious costumes, and original music -- played first in 2,000-seat theaters in Lancaster, PA and Branson, MO in 2014-2015. Then, in September 2018, the filmed play was shown in 800 movie theaters across the United States as a "special event." Now available on DVD and streaming, Moses is intended for a wider audience. With an eye toward family viewing, staged action includes a murder in a shadowy portion of the stage, brief clashes between Egyptians and Israelites, some sword and spear play, and opulent depictions of the Ten Plagues. Occasional ethnic slurs ("Hebrew filth") and insults ("cockroach," "lazy") are heard. This tale of Moses adheres closely to the source, the bible's Book of Exodus, with its inspirational messages emphasized.
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What's the Story?
MOSES tells the story of the Hebrew prophet who is said to have delivered his people from slavery in Egypt to God's Promised Land. As written in The Book of Exodus, Baby Moses was placed in a basket and sent down the Nile River to save him from an Egyptian law that ordered the drowning of all Hebrew (aka Jewish or Israelite) male infants. Discovered by an Egyptian queen, Moses grew up as her son. When as an adult Moses refused to accept Egypt's worship of multiple deities, he left his adopted home and found his way back to his family. After much soul-searching and a struggle to hold onto his faith, Moses was visited by God and chosen to lead his people out of slavery and receive the Ten Commandments. In the face of enormous obstacles, including a powerful Pharaoh and his mighty army, the Jewish people were liberated and settled in a new homeland.
Is It Any Good?
It took an enormous investment of time, inspiration, and money to mount this heartfelt stage production, which should find audiences for whom spectacle and religion go hand in hand. As an example of its no-expense-spared nature, it's estimated that it cost at least $1,000,000 and required 50-60 loaded semi-trucks simply to move the original company from its home stage in Pennsylvania to its second location in Branson, MO. Filming a production like this one comes with a unique set of challenges. Nuance can be sacrificed for grandeur; performances that are meant to reach audiences in the back row of a theater can seem melodramatic when see through the eye of a camera close-up. It's interesting to note that there are no cast and crew listings in any advertising, online material, or on the film itself. That's a purposeful omission as Sight & Sound Theatres, the company who created Moses and other staged biblical plays, prefers to acknowledge the work as a team effort. Kudos to the organization that makes such theatrical experiences available to a dedicated fan base.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the differences between movies and "filmed theatrical events" such as Moses. Constrained by time and space, plays are filmed in a matter of hours, using multiple cameras. How much time, on average, is required to film a movie? In what very significant ways are the actors' performances different (think of having to be heard in the back of a theater as opposed to having a microphone)? How do your expectations change when you see a filmed stage play?
What Jewish holiday celebrates Moses leading his people out of Egypt? Have you ever joined in one of the events? What symbols do Jewish people use to retell this story?
In a musical play (or opera or operetta), what are some ways the music enhances the story? In Moses, how did the musical numbers help you understand what the characters were thinking?
- In theaters: September 13, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: October 16, 2018
- Cast: Jay Poff
- Studio: Sight & Sound
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: July 25, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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