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The Prince of Egypt: Signature Selection

Produced by Jeffrey Katzenberg (the 'K' in DreamWorks SKG), 1998's The Prince of Egypt was the fledgling studio's bid to compete with Disney's domination of the animated-feature market. No one can argue that Katzenberg was the right man for the job, being a force behind several recent Disney productions, and while The Prince of Egypt is not a Disney product, it's easily as good as anything The Mouse House has ever delivered. A creative re-telling of the Book of Exodus (Steven Spielberg reportedly suggested that DreamWorks should make an animated The Ten Commandments), the Biblical story of Moses is retold, from his adoption into the Royal household of Egypt to his discovery of his Jewish heritage and his eventual alliance with the Jewish slaves in Egypt — a tribe he leads out of slavery (with the help of The Almighty Lord God, of course). Generally speaking, comedies tend to play stronger than dramas in animated form, and there's nothing funny about The Prince of Egypt, which comes across as an eye-popping edition of a child's Biblical coloring book. As such, some of the gravitas of the Book of Exodus is undermined by the inherent nature of the format, and when you really want to be moved by the story (among the most dramatic of the Old Testament), it's hard to get past the fact that you are watching a cartoon — a problem that never occurs in, say, A Bug's Life. This one's worth watching for the animation itself, which has an impressive three-dimensional quality (thanks to a new generation of software) and energetic voice-overs from the cast, which includes Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Martin Short, and Steve Martin. The DreamWorks team earns additional credit for having the guts to send this one to the theaters without any merchandising tie-ins — it may have hurt the box-office, but we really didn't need any collectable "Burning Bush" cups at Taco Bell either. Flawless transfer, DD 5.1, and the many supplements include a commentary track with directors Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells, a behind-the-scenes documentary, analysis of technical effects, production notes, and a trailer.

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