A beyond-unimpressive computer-animated retelling of the story of Moses, The Ten Commandments seems to have been made using public-domain software, and targeted squarely at kids impressed by any brightly colored moving objects projected on a screen. It fails on every conceivable level. Characters with the smooth skin and detail-free features of fresh-off-the-assembly-line mannequins walk stiffly through animated landscapes that wouldn't make the cut in a commercial for a used-car dealership. The film takes a doggedly literal approach to the Bible, except when it doesn't. When Moses slays the slave-abusing Egyptian, it's softened to play as an act of self-defense. When the Jews complain in the desert, they say things like "Are we there yet?" and "A little manna goes a long way!" And then there's the voice cast. Elliott Gould, the sound of forceless equivocation for more than three decades, plays God. Doing little to rein in his nasal, Hollywood-hepcat inflections, Christian Slater plays Moses. Presumably, Lou Diamond Phillips passed on the part.
Combined, those elements work about as well as can be expected, which is not at all. If there's a less imaginative scene in the movies this year than a long sequence in which Moses and Aaron (Christopher Gaze) discuss their flight while walking through the desert, taking the exact same computer-dictated steps each time, it will probably go straight to YouTube and involve a cute kitten. Worse, the filmmakers can't even fully commit to their own shallow imaginations—they borrow shots from Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments whenever it suits them. Though it's receiving a theatrical release, and is designed to kick off a whole series of animated adaptations of Bible stories, the film naturally belongs in the classrooms of lazy Sunday School teachers, the kind who don't mind giving their kids the impression that the Bible is mostly a sorry substitute for Finding Nemo.