Thou shalt not see any B.O. records broken during the theatrical rollout of “The Ten Commandments,” a well-intentioned misfire featuring 3-D CGI animation that recalls lesser vidgames of the mid-1990s. Reportedly the first in a proposed “Epic Stories From the Bible” series by Promenade Pictures, the latest project of industry vet Frank Yablans, the pic (set to open Oct. 19 nationwide) may eventually prove useful as a homevid teaching tool for very young children. But even toddlers may notice that Moses, Aaron and other notables here are far less, well, animated than characters in most secular toons.
Despite a sinful preponderance of flat, too obvious dialogue — which, to be fair, may enable moppets to better understand the narrative — scripter Ed Naha and co-directors Bill Boyce and John Stronach do a creditable job of condensing and streamlining the book of Exodus. (At 88 minutes, the pic is more than two hours shorter than Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 take on the same material.) And the vocal talents, including Christian Slater as Moses, Alfred Molina as Ramses and Elliott Gould as the voice of God, range from respectably proficient to (in Gould’s case) surprisingly effective. Ben Kingsley’s narration is suitably reverent.
But there’s no getting around the dispiriting visual clunkiness. Blandly rendered characters are wooden in their reactions and stiff in their movements. (The chronic immobility of hair, beards and body parts might amuse adults, but could creep out some kids.) Scenes clearly intended as show-stoppers — including, alas, the parting of the Red Sea — are remarkably unremarkable.
Far too much of what appears onscreen evokes memories of vidgame imagery. It doesn’t help that, when Moses is pursued by soldiers in an early scene, the action resembles that of a first-person shooter game. Or that the malcontent Dathan (played by Edward G. Robinson in DeMille’s version, but voiced by Lee Tockar here) looks like a bearded brethren of Mario, hero of “Donkey Kong” and “Mario Bros.”
It’s worth noting that young viewers raised on “Shrek” toons might be befuddled, if not upset, whenever Moses addresses his mule and the mule does not reply.