Movie Review

The Prince of Egypt

Rated “PG” for intense depiction of thematic elements

Reviewed by: Christine L. Pryor
CONTRIBUTOR

© 1998 by National Religious Broadcasters.
Reprinted with permission from NRB magazine.

Good
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All Ages
Genre:
Animation
PG

Starring: Voices of Sandra Bullock, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Ofra Haza, Val Kilmer, Steve Martin, Helen Mirren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Martin Short, Patrick Stewart | Director: Brenda Chapman and Steve Hickner

What happens when a Hollywood entertainment company decides to do a film with a biblical theme? When the company is DreamWorks SKG, a lot of research, planning and innovation lead to a fascinating animated feature film.

(Note: The “Prince of Egypt” is in full-color, though these pictures are not)
Slaves toil to bring idol of Pharoah Seti to the center of the great city
The Prince of Egypt tells the story of Moses and Ramses

DreamWorks interprets the story of Moses with brilliant animation, vast landscapes, sumptuous sets, a cast of stage and screen stars (Val Kilmer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Sandra Bullock, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Patrick Stewart) and special effects—used in 1180 of the 1192 scenes—of dust, shadow and light.

Many Hollywood directors insist the key to a successful film is a good story. Awe-inducing, ground-breaking artistic and computer-generated special effects endeavors aside, “The Prince of Egypt” is a good one. But don’t go to the theater with a pocket Bible, a pen light and a yellow highlighter.

If you’re expecting a scene-by-scene visual rendering of the biblical account of Exodus, remember that the studio is a Hollywood entertainment company, not a religious broadcaster. The film’s introduction states it is “true to the essence, values and integrity” of the story. So although DreamWorks SKG carefully secured the views of many theologians and religious leaders—including those of NRB president Brandt Gustavson and members Ted Baehr, James Dobson, Billy Graham, D. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson—several points of biblical inconsistency emerge.

A partial list of divergences: Moses is not reunited with his mother as an infant, he speaks flawlessly and therefore does not need Aaron’s eloquence, he kills the Egyptian by accident rather than murdering him, Aaron is reluctant to support Moses and discourages him from speaking to Pharaoh, the particular responsibilities of the Hebrews during the Passover are largely… passed over. Other discrepancies exist, enough to possibly spur a broadcast contest of guess the number of fictionalizations. [Read the true story of Moses. Go…]

Jeffrey Katzenberg Before you write a letter of disappointment to the creative people at DreamWorks, consider again the film’s introductory mission statement of keeping intact the essence, values and integrity of the Exodus. It is not intended to be a literal interpretation, but entertainment with a positive message. And despite the many textual inconsistencies, the film’s central theme is clear. In the words of DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg. “A man has an experience with his God” which forever changes his life, his perceptions and his people’s history.

This experience for Moses is witnessing God speaking through a burning bush. Director Steve Hickner says, “The proudest moment for me was that we actually got the burning bush scene to work. You have to believe it works in order for the rest of the film to work. It is the central, pivotal moment of the film.” And Hickner has reason to be proud; with a Hans Zimmer score that beckons, weeps and inspires undergirding the visual images, the animation captures the solemnity of the experience, Moses’s human reactions and the Lord’s comforting response to Moses’s terror.

Will audiences believe the scene? More importantly, will they realize that they, too, can have a relationship with their Lord? When asked what he wants his children to take away from the film, production designer Darek Gogol responds, “I pray they’re going to get it and find the values in the film. The idea is that instead of interpreting it, let them watch it and then we’ll talk about it.”

Watch it and then talk about it. Perhaps religious broadcasting should take note of Moses going to Hollywood. Maybe “The Prince of Egypt” can attract seeking hearts through the flickering silver screen that would never approach the worn wooden altar. And maybe, just maybe, the prince of Egypt will lead a few people to the Prince of Peace.

Year of Release—1998

Viewer Comments
While the movie does not closely follow the Scriptures and much of the meaning of Passover was ignored, it is very emotionally uplifting. The film does not in any way mock God. He is presented as “I Am the I Am.” The movie should cause many to search the Scriptures and perhaps find Christ. The animation is terrific, especially the burning bush, the coming of the death angel and the parting of the Red Sea. Thank you, Dreamworks, for a great animated film.
—Ken Thornbury, age 55
I certainly enjoyed taking my 5 and 7 yr. old grandchildren to see this film. I pray that it will be such a success that many more of this type will be made. We need to get the message out to the young children that don’t attend church. I feel that The Prince of Egypt was done in a way, that they would come away with a question in their mind. They might just ask Who is God?
—Sandi Davis, age 52
This film was nothing short of fantastic. I left with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat and a sense that God was the star of this picture show. Praise be to God! May it be used for years to come to demonstrate the power and love of God for his people.
—Jeffrey Watson, age 36
If this film was made by Christians, I would have been seriously offended. Not only were details of the story changed, but the focus of the film seemed to center on the relationship between Moses and Ramses, who, according to this version, grew up together as brothers. In reality, the story of the Exodus is about the Lord establishing a relationship with His chosen people and drawing them unto His heart.

However, this film was not made by Christians. As such, I was highly impressed.

First for the fact that at the very beginning they admitted artistic licences were taken in changing the script, then informing the viewers that the original story could be found in the book of Exodus.

Secondly that the overall integrity was maintained—unlike other Hollywood productions of this story. The Bible states that Moses was a very humble man; in this film I could believe that. He obeys the Lord with boldness, not His own boldness, but quite clearly in His reliance on the Lord (you can see this as he recalls the words of the Lord before he enacts a miracle).

He is bold, but he puts on no airs about it; and his love for the Lord can be seen as he appeals to Ramses not to boast of his claims of godhood when Moses first returned to Egypt. Also, the Lord is clearly displayed as being more powerful than the Egyptian gods and their magicians, who are quite arrogant and eventually helpless. And the mercy and love of the Lord for His people can actually be noticed, for “he who as ears to hear.” Even Miriam shows her colors as a prophetess. Quite impressive for Hollywood, I would say. As Christians, we have two choices: be offended for the inaccuracies, or we can applaud the presenting our Lord to the masses who may not have been able to receive an introduction to Him otherwise.
—Deanna, age 28
A must see! Considering that this production was made by secular producers, I was impressed. Although not perfect, virtually any inconsistencies where more along the lines of omission than actual misrepresentation. As a strong Christian, I was moved by the message. The scene of the passover was as inspiring. Overall, “Prince of Egypt” was more accurate than the “Ten Commandments” and I am looking forward to owning a copy.
—Brian Hendee, age 48
This movie was a work of art. I’ve never seen an animation done better in my 19 years of seeing them on the big screen. The music was even beautifully done—which surprised me because it usually bothers me when characters break out in song, but not in the Prince of Egypt. The biggest difference I could find in the movie compared to Exodus was 1) Moses AND Aaron went to Pharaoh because Moses was a poor speaker, and 2) Moses intentionally kills a slave master in secret (as found in Exodus), compared to “killing on accident” as seen in the Prince of Egypt. This movie is definitely a must see. A+ to DreamWorks Entertainment.
—Brian Pedigo, age 19
I went to the film with my 9 year old daughter Erinn. As a Children’s Pastor I wanted to see it, but I also wanted to see it as a parent with one of my children. I could have gotten picky at things that were left out or different interpretations of events, but all in all it was an AWESOME change from the animation fluff and drivel that my children have been subjected to by the major studios. The animation is wonderful, even the hieroglyphics were superbly drawn.

The scenery was very accurate in portraying the Nile delta, the river, vegetation, and the architecture was immense and full of grandeur. The slaves, and their labors came to life on the screen. All this with an outstanding musical score, and an all star cast of voices. Having seen four versions of this story, I was amazed at the simplicity of retelling the essence of the story, and of things that matter, that every life has purpose and meaning and God wants to reveal Himself. The measure of “looking at your life through heavens eyes” sent the message home to my daughter of the sovereignty of God.

The special effects really brought to life the immensity of the miracles in the whole story. One other note. Zipporah had a bigger role than Aaron in the film. I did not mind that. I think Zipporah did have a significant role in Moses life and mission, but we are not told of it in Scripture. I personally appreciated how supportive Zipporah actually was of Moses.

It is something we either presume or don’t even notice in the Scriptural narrative. This movie is worth seeing over many times. I sensed God when I watched the scene of the burning bush. Before I knew it there were tears running down my cheeks, as my daughter whispered, “God is just like that Daddy, never boring!” For those who have wondered how to show the story of love and redemption, Dreamworks has done us a favor and blessing in producing Prince of Egypt. Five stars in my book.
—Sammy Buick, age 40
As a Christian, it would be easy to find fault with several areas of how they did this story, but I agree with the reviewer and this film is more than worthwhile. Personally, the biggest thing for me was seeing the awesomeness of God being portrayed in this movie. There is no doubt that it is not “magic” or some other good will force working. It also leaves you with no doubt that Moses was a mere mortal man who obeyed God and God stood with him. However, I disagree with the reviewer on the passover part. I thought it was powerful. Children don’t need to get caught up in all the instructions, at least not in a movie like this. The movie is not for small children, even though the animation is fantastic, the story is complicated. Plan on talking with your children about the movie afterward. When it comes out on Video, I think every family should own it, if only to remind them of the promises of God.
—D. Kent, age 32
I keep telling everyone that it was the best $8.50 I’ve ever spent. Who could ever imagine that a truly inspirational, and extremely well-done animated feature would be played in a public movie-theater? The score is great, the godly characters have morals that I’ve never seen upheld in a public show, the animation is a notch above any thing else (namely Lion King and Mulan) the emotions are broad, the special effects are so amazing that I won’t even try to express them. And don’t forget that the whole plot is absolutely based around “fantastic” “miracles” that most people would declare could never happen, and yet the story is rich and plausible! After the first few minutes, the skeptics in the row behind me stopped snickering at the word “God”…
—Graham, age 17
Granted, as many in Christian circles will point out, the movie did take some artistic liberties where the Bible was silent (although none of these liberties conflicted with major doctrinal points). With that said, this was a spectacular experience. There was a deep respect for the religions represented in this movie—something often not seen. The burning bush scene was deeply moving; the Red Sea was stunning. It is so nice to see quality movies with a respect for those of faith and their religious history. Rock on, DreamWorks! I’m ready to see more of this!
—Daniel A. Hochhalter, age 32
“The Prince of Egypt” is a very entertaining and inspiring film. The animation is superb filling the screen with color and motion unlike any other film that I have seen. The music is good as is the voices. I felt that the movie did a particularly good job in the scenes depicting Moses’s encounter with God, the plagues on Egypt and the parting of the waters. I did indeed feel wonder at what it must have been like to behold these miracles. The film also sparked my imagination as to the person of Moses and some of what he “may” have felt as these events were taking place. In fact, it has motivated me to reread the Exodus account, and any movie that makes people interested in the Bible is good. Yes, anyone with a knowledge of the Scriptures, will be mindful of the inaccuracies. However, for all of us who would like Hollywood to produce more family films that are respectful of our religious beliefs, than we must support this film.
—Will, age 32
I went to this movie with high expectations and and was greatly pleased. Yes, there are many discrepancies but we must and I’m not saying we should look over them but instead we should support this film fully. We as Christians are usually always disappointed with Hollywood. We should stand up and cheer their effort at bringing God to the big screen.
—Nathan, age 20
The reviewer is right about discrepancies in the film. Another one is that Moses is taken out of the river by the Queen and not the a daughter of Pharaoh. This is to please the Muslims who believe Moses was taken in by the Queen. A subtext exists in that Moses seems to care more about what is happening with the Egyptians during the plagues, than what has been happening to his own people for so many years. The spirit of the story does come across quite well. The animation is also fairly well done. The songs come across as little flat, no one song got my attention.
—Rachele
I thought this was a beautiful adaptation of the life of Moses. It made the biblical story in Exodus come alive so that you felt the tension and the emotion as Moses found the courage and strength and faith to believe God and complete the mission that God gave him no matter what the cost. The Bible is not clear on Moses' relationship with his adopted Egyptian family. Until seeing this film this was an angle that I never really thought much about. I would imagine though that there was a closeness there and that is what the focus of the movie was. Was Moses going to be loyal to a God that He didn’t quite know or to a family that raised him from infancy? It is a powerful story and I was very moved watching this on the big screen. I hope that it inspires and touches everyone in some way who watches this film believer and non believer included. Thank you Hollywood for giving us a biblical epic that wasn’t contrived or corny but real and visceral.
—Don Lambirth, age 30
Technically excellent. Scenes that stick in my mind are Moses encounter at the burning bush, and the parting of the Red Sea. As others have pointed out there are some major departures from scripture (where’s Aaron ?) etc, but I still think its an excellent movie. Clearly portrays God as both powerful yet gentle—rare insight particularly for a secular film. Some good touches. I would recommend it. Small children may find parts frightening.
—David G Jones, age 42
An excellent film. It is touching to see a Hollywood studio treat the subject of Moses with reverence and respect. My family and I don’t purchase many videotapes, but when this one comes out, we’ll very happily add it to our small library.
—Eddie and Aisela Allie, age 23
The animation is tremendous. There are scenes that look like live-action. Overall, it is a very positive movie for both Jews and Christians but like most Hollywood stuff it never *really* goes far enough. The high point of the film is indeed the burning bush. I found it extremely moving. I was rather disappointed with the whole 10 plagues scenes. It was very unclear why they were happening. They never showed that Moses went back to Pharaoh 10 times and the resulting judgment by God. I was warned that the final plague might be too intense for young kids. My 4YO sat through it and was not bothered. In fact, I don’t think she really knew what (or more importantly why) this was happening. It will lead me to read the whole story to my kids, but I doubt it was powerful enough for a non-believer to be so inclined.
—M Morey, age 37
Visually, it was stunning. Story-wise, it wasn't. Leave it to Hollywood to compromise the very Word of God. Those of you who’ve seen this know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s as if Dreamworks didn’t trust the Word of God to stand on its own so they doctored up the script and kept the “good parts” like the parting of the Red Sea. Very disappointing. It’s time for Christian filmmakers to pool their resources together and release their films to the theatres so Hollywood can see how it should be done!
—Chris Utley, age 26
I just saw this film last night and I must say I was a little disappointed. My expectations were probably too high. Of all the little “artistic liberties” that were taken, the one that disappointed me most was the way the film completely misrepresented Moses' brother Aaron! In the film, it is Moses and his wife Zipporah that confront Pharaoh, while Aaron tries to dissuade Moses throughout. Also, while God is certainly seen as a powerful force and a real Person (in contrast with the false gods of Egypt), the focus is more on the believer, rather than the one believed in. Songs like “I Will Get There” (played during the credits) and “If You Believe” and others place the credit more on the one who has faith than the object of that faith (a Disney-esque “anything’s possible if you believe—no matter what you believe in” kind of thing). However, these problems were balanced by some really positive aspects, such as the portrayal of a real and living God with real power, against the false gods whose power lies in manipulation and trickery. While I understand why certain artistic liberties must be taken with a complex story to make it fit on a screen, I do not understand why the folks at Dreamworks took some of liberties they did. I think a better portrayal of Aaron, at least with Aaron accompanying Moses and supporting him, would have worked perfectly.
—Tim Blaisdell, age 35
WOW! What a movie! I have never felt so many “I-am-watching-God-at-work” chills in my entire life! Gorgeously animated (but don’t even THINK of describing PoE as a cartoon…) AND faithful to the biblical story (mostly). Go see it and tell your friends! Let’s show Hollywood that the Christian community is larger than the Leonardo DiCapprio fan-club!
—Beorn, age 22
All I can say is Wow. This was the best movie I’ve seen this year. The animation was breathtaking especially the parting of the Red Sea. The story was pretty close to the Bible except for the few exceptions mentioned by the reviewer. The overall message of the film I felt glorified God and showed His power and faithfulness towards His people. I loved the characters and their relationships with each other. The music was superb. Some scenes may be frightening to very small children, however the kids in the theatre that I attended took it in stride. There is one scene where several women bath Moses that some might think to sensual but I did not have a problem with it. I think this would be a great movie to take unsaved loved ones to. It would bring up great witnessing opportunities. I give this film an A+.
—Tammy, age 26
Wow!!!… What an awesome, exciting movie! I was so thrilled that Hollywood produced such a blessed-by-God movie, and to God be the glory! I can’t wait for Israel to get this movie! Pray for God’s hand to rekindle the hearts of all of those who have lost their hope in God. This movie will recapture just that. I do wish they had gotten down on their knees to glorify God on the other side of the Red Sea, and yes, there were some minor Biblical differences. I felt like I left a retreat when I left the theater, and was so excited to praise my Jesus during this Christmas Season! Don’t miss it! p.s. …a bit slow for the very young.
—Nancy, age 45
While there are several scenes within this film just asking for heated discussion from a biblical stand, I found the film was able to communicate the essence of the story and lessons. I especially felt that someone who did not know the Lord would be able to sense the awesome power of our God, in a way that no other film has been able achieve. We were struck by the portrayal of Moses as a man who was simply chosen of God. A man who tried to be obedient and God used that obedience. It’s not a true scriptural representation, but knowing and expecting that, we still enjoyed it and would recommend it, although the scene in which the staff turns into a serpent deals with magic and would be borderline for some children and may require some followup discussion with young children.
—L. B., age 40
This movie is absolutely dazzling and the story is deeply moving. My children sat awestruck throughout the entire showing but this is not your typical kid’s animated offering. I’m speaking as a professional commercial artist, teacher and gospel chalk artist: this movie has taken animated movies to a new height. The whole 80 minutes is pure magic. The use of light, color and computerized special effects has NEVER been this good throughout a whole movie. But, the story is just as powerful. As a christian I am thrilled over a movie which lifts up God as the magnificent Sovereign that He is. Yes, there are some inconsistencies with the Biblical telling of the events, and this does bother me to a degree.

Yet, it gave us an opportunity to discuss these issues with our children while reading the Biblical account to them. No animated film has ever brought me to tears but this one did several times. It made elements of the very familiar story take on a new dimension. The scene of Moses' mother setting her son adrift in the Nile made me FEEL the tragedy of the situation like I never have before. The burning bush sequence was masterfully done and put me right in Moses' sandals (well, true to the Bible, he actually took them off and was barefoot). The whole Red Sea crossing was incredible. I fought to keep from leaping to my feet in wild applause—not just because of its surrealistic beauty but because I was reminded of the awesome power and majesty of our God. Even if you don’t have children (or know the Biblical account by heart or have seen “The 10 Commandments” several times), you will want to see this movie. You will have a deeper reverence for your God by the time the credits roll.
—Mr. Kerry Kistler, age 37
The Prince of Egypt is a entertainment film without biblical understanding. I will not recommend this film for serious viewer! I do not recommend this film for serious viewer! As an Asian Christian myself, I find that the film hiding God always. From a Biblical perspective, I think that man, himself, has replaced God in this film totally. What happens when a Hollywood entertainment company decides to do a film with a biblical theme? I cannot be certain about it. But being a biblical theme, I am more concern with who’s and what concept and understanding was the film based on? Thus, we need to know how DreamWorks has interpreted the movie. Do remember that the Hollywood entertainment company is not a religious broadcaster. Can you recall the disclaimer stated at the start of the movie “true to the essence, values and integrity”? The true is that many biblical discrepancy exit. Personally, I realized that the film has really got nothing to do with God! God plays only a very minor role. Other than the miracles we know nothing about this great God.

All the film does is keep talking about men and the freedom of men. It sounds very much like a cry of the modern man wanting to break free from the modern system. Such messages are similar to humanistic thoughts and can be easily traced from the song sung in the film. Humanistic thought could have been used in the film instead. There is NO biblical value in the film. I don’t think that the audiences can have a relationship with our Lord. For people, who never know about the biblical background, would never know the complete meaning and the calling for Moses and his people. This biblical theme has been used as a entertainment film. It has lost its original meaning!
—Rev. Kenneth Goh Choo Peng, age 34