December 21, 1998 12:00 PM


After an autumn overloaded with ants (in the laudable Antz and A Bug’s Life), it’s a relief to report that the animated musical The Prince of Egypt is un-ant-imated. The only insects onscreen are deadly swarms of locusts and grasshoppers sent by God to punish the pharaoh. The bugs are beautifully and impressively drawn but lack personality, which could be said for Prince as well.

This animated feature retells the biblical tale of Moses, following him as he goes from baby in a basket to adopted member of the Egyptian royal family to desert outcast to messenger from God with a knack for parting large bodies of water. Prince is visually compelling, featuring a strikingly varied palette and scenes set on a grand scale that out-De Mille even Cecil B. De Mille’s own Hollywood biblical epics. The chariot race here makes the one in Ben Hur (1959) look like a go-cart ride.

The problem with Prince, though, is it is aimed as much at adults as at children (maybe even more so), and the cartoon characters, though well voiced by Val Kilmer (Moses), Michelle Pfeiffer (Tzipporah, his wife), Sandra Bullock (Miriam, his sister) and Ralph Fiennes (Rameses, his enemy), are still just cartoons. Adults may find it tough to connect to them as characters, and kids will miss the cute, anthropomorphized bugs. (PG)

Bottom Line: Thou shalt appreciate the drawing without being drawn in

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