The Prince Of Egypt (U) 99 mins

The Exodus story, animated for the big screen, is an unlikely film to mark Dreamworks’ challenge to Disney's dominance of the genre. And, to get the obvious question out of the way it is, frankly, no match for the excellence of The Lion King or Mulan.

Then again, it is a very different film. The audience would need to be that bit older to enjoy this serious- minded depiction of the story available, as the film helpfully points out, in book form as well - but it will presumably draw praise for bringing this Biblical tale to a popular audience once more.

With some artistic licence, it follows Moses from his discovery as a baby by Pharaoh's wife, through his formative years as a Royal Prince to his fall from grace when he discovers his true Hebrew background. He turns his back on his adopted culture, working hard to prove himself worthy of his enslaved people. His course in life is changed when he hears the voice of God, telling him that he must free the Jews from the oppression of their Egyptian masters, and lead them

The writing’s on the wall: Rameses says no in The Prince Of Egypt

into the Promised Land.

This familiar tale is told in an imaginative and inventive fashion - a sequence involving hieroglyphics that come to life, the Passover sequence and the parting of the Red Sea are all superb yet the biggest drawback with such a film could be this very ambition. ln aiming for such a bold, epic approach, the filmmakers risk losing the human focus of the story, just as by abridging it they could be accused of dumbing it down. The eternal problem of depicting convincing human characters in animation is heightened by the need to retain a certain dignity given the origin and nature of this story.

Slightly overlong, The Prince Of Egypt seems in some ways half finished. It shows great promise, yet is slightly disappointing. There are one or two decent songs and a succession of starry voices that include Val Kilmer as Moses, as well as Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock and Michelle Pfeiffer, but ultimately this is a film that aims for dramatic realism. The dramatic reality is that it's simply not up to Disney‘s best.

(Anwar Brett) General release from Fri' 78 Dec


Heavenly bodies: Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jnr in What Dreams May Come

While Chris is coming to terms With his new abode, Annie's grief drives her to SUiCide and she is condemned to Hell, where she and her husband can never be JOined. But Chris enlists the help of The Tracker (Max von Sydow) and makes an unprecedented (burney to be reunited With his loved one

An Orpheus-like challenge, a Catholic View of suiCide, a Heaven where reincarnation is on offer What Dreams May Come plays pic-'n’- mix With religion and comfortable New Age philosophies about eternal life.

Director Ward (The Nay/gator, Map Of The Human Heart) fills the screen

What Dreams May Come (15) 114 mins

When the alumni 'painterly' is applied to a t'eini, it's irkeiy that the piece In question ‘iifis "t:sr,liitely into the I'll'llltfll‘rf" (ll/l‘,i’>ll, ‘.‘.’l'tl‘. plot drive well tltL‘.‘/l‘- its list at ;)l'i’illll(‘8 Vincent \‘Jarri's «i‘xe-lifter-Heath story is, tlierelt‘ire, riiiite unexpected a ll’ltllllSll'f'illll rorriarire set against a backdrop 'Jl Drilllf‘SflU‘.‘ proportions, rendered ‘.'.’llll the {(PXllll't' of a series of ()ll paintings Part artistic vision, part

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lovey—dovey schmaltz, the film never reconciles the two: but it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

After falling in love during an idyllic Swiss holiday, Chris and Annie Nielsen (Robin Williams and Annabella Sciorra) marry and have two children Tragedy follows, however, when first the kids are killed in a car acCident and then Chris loses his life Chris finds himself in Heaven which, his guide Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr) tells him, can look like anything he Wishes ~ so it becomes a live-in version of one of Annie's paintings.

With beautiful VISIons, making a film that is truly remarkable, but not partrccilarly engaging beyond the ’what can they do next?’ factor Williams can’t help but bring the baggage of sentimentality to the role, and this lessens the film’s sense of wonder, but SCiorra is magnificent, giVing this technologically wonderful movre an emotional centre, a human heart beating amid all the clever-clever graphics. (Alan Morrison)

a General release from Sat 26 Dec

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The Mighty (PG) 99 mins ink

The juvenile protagonists of this odd little picture are, put bluntly, a fat stupid kid and a disabled brainy kid. Together they form one chivalrous champion of the oppressed called Freak the Mighty. Ditching the full name of this derring-do duo in favour of the meaninglessly adjectival The Mighty is the first of many judgement errors on the part of director Peter Chelsom (Hear My Song, the excellent Funny Bones).

It’s hard to imagine the film finding and satisfying an audience. Adults may be drawn by the heavyweight acting talents of Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton, but would then be left agog as the two nippers foil abusive thugs with little more than water pistols and integrity. Pimps, gangsters and cinema’s least threatening delinquent street gang are also given short shrift by our heroes. Younger viewers, on the other hand, may well enjoy the boys' visions of knights roaming through modern urban America, but couldn't fail to be disturbed by the heart-rending scenes in which Freak's crippling disease takes its inevitable, tragic toll.

Stone’s performance is strong enough to suggest a decent career as a character actress once those movie star looks fade, and it’s interesting to see her opposite Gena Rowlands, whose titular role as Gloria she'll soon adopt in a remake of the Cassavetes classic. Talk of an Oscar nomination, however, seems excessive.

Perhaps Shazza only looks good in comparison With Gillian Anderson and Meat Loaf, who play a white trash married couple as though they are appearing in a provincial panto, rather than a major motion picture. Agent Scully does particularly badly, and may want to sign up for as many series of The X-Files as she possibly can, if this is to set her big screen standard. One final note: several disabled child actors auditioned for the lead role, only for the part to go to Macaulay Culkin’s kid brother. (Rob Fraser)

3 Selected release from M 26 Dec.

It's my party: Sharon Stone in The Mighty

STAR RATINGS * v. *r 1* 4r Unmissable it w it it Very 00d it a yr Wort a shot * 9k Below average it You‘ve been warned