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8. Thou shalt not steal.The filmmakers say their primary visual inspirations were David Lean, Gustave Doré and Claude Monet. But The Prince of Egypt is a pastiche of old and new techniques, computer wizardry and old-fashioned rotoscoping, and its shifts in tone -- the washed-out pastels of the desert, the expressionistic charcoal strokes of a city at night -- feel incoherent, not innovative. The single most original scene in the film actually owes nothing to Lawrence of Arabia, 19th-century engraving or Impressionism. Moses, having just found Miriam and Aaron, flees back to the palace, sings, promptly falls asleep and begins to dream. The film's three-dimensional sense of space, its fulsomeness, abruptly flattens into the hard lines and bright colors of hieroglyphic figures recounting Pharaoh's atrocities against the Hebrews, then shifts again as the figures begin sliding across the palace's mortared, pockmarked walls. What's surprising about the scene isn't its violence (a depiction of infanticide that helped earn the film its PG rating), but the tension between two-dimensional figures slipping over walls that look convincingly three-dimensional.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."You can't deal with this like some trivial fairy tale," David Geffen reportedly told Katzenberg. Dream- Works should be so lucky to produce a fairy tale as trivial as Walt Disney's Snow White. Which leads to the last injunction:
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. Of course DreamWorks wants to be Disney. But it doesn't just want to be Disney, it wants to be better than Disney. Given the power-brokers who started the company, it's not surprising that there's something distinctly self-serving about this desire, a righteousness that informs everything from the new company's decision to build its headquarters on endangered wetlands to its choice of movie subject matter -- two of its eight releases, after all, are about slavery, four if you count Antz and Paulie -- to the marketing strategies for those films. DreamWorks doesn't just make movies about history, it makes history, one sanctioned by the Vatican and Stephen Ambrose both. Last May, when the studio screened its Prince of Egypt promotional reel for exhibitors, the voice-over announced: "In a world of power and mystery, they were the sons of a king." The narrator meant Moses and Ramses, but it's hard not to wonder if he wasn't also referring to David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg.
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