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  Publicity Stills of "The Ten Commandments"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Animation
Director: Bill Boyce and John Stronach
Cast (Voice): Christian Slater, Alfred Molina, Elliot Gould and narrated by Ben Kingsley
Runtime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.10commandmentsmovie.com

Opening Day: 6 December 2007


He is an ordinary man, a humble shepherd who despite a turbulent past has found peace in a simple life and a loving family. But the day comes when his peaceful life is shattered by the sudden awesome appearance of God who has a mission for Moses. It's a mission that will thrust Moses onto history's stage and turn him from ordinary into the extraordinary - a mighty prophet and leader of his people.

Movie Review:

The Ten Commandments is a multi-national collaboration between Singapore’s iVL Animation Studio, Promenade Pictures from the US and New Zealand’s Huhu Studios. This latest version of the epic tale of Moses is the first of a series of 12 titles to be released by Promenade as the Epic Stories of the Bible. It’s also the first 3D digital animated movie co-produced by a Singapore company that features recognized Hollywood voice talents.

Now, if you read the words “New Zealand” and started thinking “Weta” and, by extension, “Lord of the Rings”, you should know that such notions are, sadly, as believable as the story of LOTR itself. “I’m just a stranger in a strange land”, are Moses’ first words to his wife Zipporah. By about 10 minutes into the movie, you will start to feel exactly the same way

At the risk of stating the redundant, a cartoon lives or dies on the quality of its animation. Now, have you ever seen action figures being manipulated by children as they act out their self-scripted movies? Well, take away the children, give the figures a bit more liberty of movement, and that’s more or less what you’ve got here. And really, it’s no joke to say that the characters are just about as expressive as action figures. Their movement is clunky and awkward to the point of being unintentionally comedic. After a while, it starts to feel like watching something out of the mid-90s, with one crucial difference: even animation in the mid-90s was better. And in this day and age, that’s just an embarrassment, considering what we have seen in the likes of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Beowulf et al.

As a result, the rich dramatic potential of all the iconic moments go to waste. The burning bush doesn’t look anything more than a particularly bright light. Moses turning his staff into a snake and back feels more like some cheap magic trick. The plagues (frogs, locusts, etc) slowly descend upon Egypt like some pirated programme you downloaded waiting to load. And worst of all, the money shot of the parting of the Red Sea is criminally wasted. “Behold the salvation of the Lord!”, Moses proclaims. Sorry, I’m a bit too busy beholding your lack of facial expression. The overwhelming impression is that of playing some really old RPG.

The story telling also leaves much to be desired. Moses’ journey from coward and murderer to man of God is wholly unconvincing, considering that the filmmakers’ stated intention was to portray the entirety of his life. He never quite seems to move beyond the complainer that we first encounter. The scenes where he is talking to God also feel more schizophrenic than divine, which is quite an indictment, considering that it’s marketing itself as a faith-based tale. After a while, I started hearing voices too. They were telling me to get out of the cinema and go watch Prince of Egypt instead.

Speaking of voices, the voice actors do make for a rather impressive cast. Unfortunately, Ben Kingsley’s majestic narration is wasted by the poorness of the entire production, while Christian Slater makes for a decidedly unimpressive Moses. Alfred Molina’s Pharaoh is a fairly good villain, but is again undermined by the quality (or lack of it) of the animation. Elliot Gould may have been nominated for an Oscar, but his voice doesn’t quite make it as that of God (good as it is, it lacks the necessary authority). All in all, we see compelling characters who do not inspire here, encumbered as they are by far too many obstacles.

And we haven’t even gotten to the Biblical inaccuracies. While I recognize that dramatic license is always taken in the movies, speaking just as a believer, it takes a few too many liberties for comfort. For example, in the Bible, Dathan consistently opposes Moses and is eventually punished by God. In this movie, he becomes an annoying fat guy who is a spy for the Egyptians and even calls for the golden calf to be built (it was Moses’s brother Aaron who constructed the idol for the people to worship).

You might say that I ought to give this fledgling effort by a Singapore studio a chance. My response is, if it was going to be this bad, then they should’nt even have released it.

Movie Rating:

(There can be miracles when you believe. But its’ going to take many, many nights of prayer before this movie can be redeemed. Only pre-adolescent children will be able to tolerate its many flaws)

Review by Nicholas Yong


. Legend of the Sea (2007)

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