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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Prince of Egypt is a 1998 animated musical feature based on The Book of Exodus. There are scenes of slaves being whipped, hit, and verbally and physically abused. There are depictions of babies dropped and thrown into crocodile-infested waters. Moses kills a slave driver. While competing against Rameses in a chariot race, Rameses is on a road above the one Moses is on, and Moses looks up and says "it's not much of a view" as Rameses' short uniform exposes his rear. It's worth mentioning that, unlike almost every Bible story presented on film, the characters in this movie are people of color.
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What's the story?
Dreamworks SKG's first animated feature is a respectful retelling of the story of Moses. The movie takes some liberties with the story, with Moses (voice of Val Kilmer) and Ramses (voice of Ralph Fiennes) raised as brothers who love each other deeply. But Moses learns that he was born a slave and that the man he loves and respects as his father, the Pharaoh Seti (voice of Patrick Stewart), once ordered the murder of the slave babies. Struggling with his new understanding, he impulsively pushes aside a guard who is beating a slave, and the guard falls to his death. Ramses promises to pardon him, but Moses runs away. He lives peacefully with nomads, marrying the spirited Tzipporah (voice of Michelle Pfeiffer), until he receives a message from God, telling him that he must return to Egypt and free the slaves. Ramses, by now Pharaoh, is at first happy to see him, but refuses to grant his plea to "let my people go." Felled by plagues that include locusts, boils, frogs, and, finally, the death of the first-born children, Ramses finally agrees. But just as Moses is leading the Hebrews through the parted Red Sea, Ramses arrives with his army. The Red Sea closes over them, and Moses and his people are free.
Is it any good?
Presided over by former Disney-ite Jeffrey Katzenberg, the movie has some astonishing visual effects, particularly a chariot race that rivals Ben Hur and the parting of the Red Sea. This story, central to three great world religions, should be familiar to most children. The filmmakers have done a good job of making it exciting and vivid while being careful not to offend anyone. The musical numbers are largely forgettable, but the characters and the story remain compelling. Ramses, loving Moses but terrified of being responsible for the end of a dynasty, is, if not a sympathetic character, a flawed but understandable one. And Miriam and Tzipporah are strong, intelligent female characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's themes of taking responsibility and the importance of freedom.
How does this compare to other film interpretations of passages from The Bible?
How was violence used to show the barbarity of slavery as practiced by the Egyptians during the time of Moses? Was this violence necessary? Why or why not?
- In theaters: December 18, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: October 26, 2004
- Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer
- Directors: Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells, Steve Hickner
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: intense depiction of thematic elements
- Last updated: February 25, 2020
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