Arts & Culture
The Worst Exodus Movie Ever Made
Singing dogs. Israelites with boomerangs. Lasers. Read More
It is a truth universally acknowledged that The Prince of Egypt is the best cinematic retelling of the Exodus story ever. From the gorgeous visuals and amazing songs, to the faithfulness and respect for the Biblical text, to the unique takes into the story’s characters brought to life, it nails pretty much everything.
And so, there has to be a worst Passover movie, a bizarro-Prince of Egypt that gets everything wrong and then punches you in the nose for good measure.
Gentle readers, I have found such a film. I present to you: Moses: Egypt’s Great Prince.
As the title suggests, the film was made to cash in on its superior cousin’s success, and in fact, both came out the very same year, 1998.
The voice acting is bad. The animation has no budget. But the short feature (less than an hour) goes so far beyond a lazy ripoff into the land of bizarre trash that would make Oscar the Grouch feel ambivalent.
This movie has to be seen to be believed. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, so let’s fall down this filthy rabbit hole together:
The film begins with a laconic narrator, telling us how a corrupt Pharaoh kept the Israelites enslaved, yadda yadda, so far, fine.
He then tells of the Hebrews’ only hope: a prophecy that a “Chosen One” would lead them to freedom.
What? Is this a Midrash I’ve never heard?
Anyway, Moses is born and his mother sends him adrift in the river. Her name, is Jekoba. Yes, I know Yocheved can be hard to pronounce, but this isn’t even close.
It is worth noting when we meet Jekoba that she is extraordinarily white, to the point of having blue eyes. Everyone in this film is white, though a couple of the villains have mediocre tans. At least in Exodus: Gods and Kings they gave the actors spray tans.
Fast forward several years, and we meet Moses, a bargain-bin Disney prince and his dog Tut, a Scooby-Doo-esque knockoff of the animal sidekicks in superior films.
Tut has a rivalry with Nefer-Kitty, an evil cat who belongs to Moses’s brother Ramses. They talk to each other, and the humans don’t understand them. They have absolutely no relevance to the plot.
But Moses, alas, is important, and he starts singing “I’m the Prince of Egypt,” in case you had forgotten that there’s a better film out there you could be watching. It’s arguably the best song in the movie in the sense that it is only slightly repulsive in melody and lyrics, full of foreshadowing, as Moses hopes for his future in ways like, “Maybe I can cross the sea.” Alas, the dog sings a bit too.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew slaves are having a Very Important Secret Slave Meeting, where an old man insists that Pharaoh has stolen the “Flame of God” from its holy resting place.
Like the “prophecy,” if that is a real Midrash, it is not one with which I am familiar.
This old man, whose name we later learn is Levi Jethro (yes, really, and I can’t even sum up the layers of wrong that is), also mentions that Jews used to be kings, but given the scale of making stuff up to come, that anachronism is at least a shout out to some part of the Bible.
Moses, who is on the run from Egyptian priests for trespassing or something, literally falls into the meeting on the head of a very angry Hebrew who we later learn is Aaron but has absolutely nothing to do with the Biblical Aaron.
Levi Jethro stares into Moses’s eyes and notices that he is Special and maybe the Chosen One when soldiers and priests show up and we have something that would have maybe looked like a fight scene if this film had the budget. Luckily, a mysterious girl rescues Moses, and he figures out from the mezuzah on her home that she’s Hebrew… even though Mezuzot were extremely not a thing yet, but whatever.
The cat and dog then sing a song that is painful while you listen but at least forgettable afterwards, that is about how they hate each other and once again has no relevance to the plot nor the Exodus.
We also meet Pharaoh, who is definitely Evil, because he demands a servant be burned to death and ends like half his sentences with “Pharaoh has spoken.” Ramses, Moses’s young brother, is there too, and he’s so annoying he makes Moses seem charming.
Seriously, Moses is as dumb as a doorpost with lamb’s blood on it.
“You look like a prince,” Jekoba, his servant who is secretly his mother compliments him before a public appearance.
“I am a prince,” he replies earnestly, not understanding any sort of verbal idioms or conversational nuance.
Moses then goes out and encounters a group of slaves. Aaron is mean to him, so the dog pees on him. Humor! Levi Jethro shows up and takes Moses aside, showing him, I kid you not, the skeleton of an Israelite rebel chained to a pyramid next to a Hebrew inscription. And when I say “Hebrew,” I mean that someone drew chicken scratch and called it that.
Because Moses is secretly a Hebrew and also the Chosen One, he can magically read the inscription which straight up says that he is the Chosen One, even though the movie has been beating that fact over our heads this entire time.
Moses confronts the Queen, and when the Pharaoh overhears her confirm Moses’s origins, the king disowns our intrepid hero.
Moses is so sad about everything that he runs and finds the mysterious girl, and there’s definitely supposed to be chemistry between them, which is weird, because she’s probably going to be his sister Miriam, right?
Oh, great, they have a vague song about what’s probably reaching Canaan.
WAIT, WHY ARE THEY KISSING IN THIS DREAM SEQUENCE? ARE THEY SIBLINGS?
Immediately after this song, Moses magically knows the girl by name even though she never introduced herself. He calls her Zipporah, which is a relief because it means she’s based on his Biblical wife, not sister. We also later learn that Zipporah is Levi Jethro’s daughter, because sure.
They then fight some Egyptians for pretty much no reason, who knock them and the dog out with an ether-like substance, for once again pretty much no reason.
The gang wakes up to find themselves being mummified alive, which sounds terrifying except that it looks like mummification is just being wrapped in bandages. They immediately escape because literally the only thing holding them back is strips of linen.
They wind up in the Pharaoh’s basement or something and find a torch that they immediately know to be THE FLAME OF GOD. Zipporah immediately tries to touch it, and complains that it’s hot, because she’s an idiot.
Moses, however, makes contact with the flame and it makes him glow like an anime character and magically know he’s the Chosen One even though they have told us this about 613 times already.
They then make it out of there by avoiding silly booby traps like saws that come out of the wall and trapdoors filled with scorpions. It should be noted that Zipporah helps by suddenly producing a boomerang.
OK, that’s pretty freaking cool.
Moses gets captured again, because of course, and Pharaoh orders him chained to a pyramid to burn to death as a contest between God and Ra, the latter of whom the Egyptians talk about as if they were monotheistic. Subtle historical reference to the reign of Akhenaten? Doubtful.
Ramses then sings a song entitled “Please Please Ramses” which is so awful and painful to watch that it’s actually kind of impressive. It may win as Worst Song in the Movie, which is no easy task. The cat gets a solo too.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew are very upset that this guy they don’t really know is chained to a pyramid, and when Levi Jethro tries to address the crowd an Egyptian shoots him with an arrow, which, I’m not going to lie, is kind of funny. Aaron responds by leading the Jews in a violent revolt.
“No, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen,” says Moses from atop the pyramid. My thought exactly, but he then clarifies he’s referring to violence as not being the answer, which would be an offensive critique on methods of manumission were this film not about a cat that wears an Egyptian headdress.
The slaves actually manage to corner the king, and Aaron makes a list of demands, including that Jews be paid for their work. It’s honestly a pretty good labor action.
Also, a Force ghost-like vision of Levi Jethro, who is probably dead, hovers in front of Moses and gives him some kind of inspirational speech, so Moses glows, and his bonds dissolve. Apparently, he also acquired Spider-man powers, because he sits on the side of the pyramid like he can stick to it.
Moses approaches the slaves and Pharaoh, and his face is sparkling because he’s holy or something.
Ramses tries to attack him, and Moses responds by SHOOTING A LASER OUT OF HIS CHEST.
THIS LASER BURNS THE BAD GUYS AND FREES THE SLAVES WHO ARE CHAINED UP. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. APPARENTLY THE BIBLE WAS NOT WEIRD ENOUGH AND THIS MOVIE GAVE MOSES SUPERPOWERS THAT INVOLVE MAGICAL LASERS. THIS IS SO AMAZING IT ALMOST MAKES WATCHING THIS WHOLE ATROCITY WORTH IT.
Oh look, Moses also magically gained a shirt. The powers of God are great, indeed.
Pharaoh is at this point so fed up, that he sets the slaves free (he calls it banishment), which is confusing, because the rest of the movie is about the slaves going free but I thought that that was what just happened?
Anyway, Moses and Zipporah get married and— wait. Is that Levi Jethro officiating?
So is he dead or isn’t he? Whatever, I don’t care.
Anyway, the film blessedly realizes it’s out of time, so Moses encounters the burning bush, and God conveniently sums the rest up. He shows us a much older Moses coming back, confronting Pharaoh, etc. The plagues are explained as blood, locusts, and poison gas on “every Egyptian,” the latter of which is both made up and especially offensive.
God sends Moses to Midian and says he will call for him when the time is right. This makes no sense because Moses already freed the slaves? Are they coming with him and then going back to Egypt later just to torture their former oppressors? Or are they going to return to slavery until Moses has grown a Charlton Heston-like beard?
The film concludes with a narrated montage of the Jews reaching the Promised Land with Moses (which, you know, he didn’t do). Finally, cut to live action stock footage of 20th century Israel, and the film concludes about the Hebrews:
“They live there to this day. Home at last.”
There’s no way to conclude such a cinematic journey without a plea to change copyright law and give someone control over the Bible’s creative properties. Clearly, it has no place in the public domain if it’s going to suffer this abuse.
Happy Passover, and thanks for making it through this.