National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks & Passes

BY Steven D. Greydanus

February 24-March 1, 2008 Issue | Posted 2/19/08 at 3:13 PM


The Prince of Egypt / Joseph: King of Dreams (1998/2000) - Pick

The Road to El Dorado / Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2000/2002) - Pass

New for DVD, DreamWorks is pairing up a number of its animated films in two-pack editions — one set definitely worth getting, others not so much.

The one to get is the Pentateuch diptych pairing The Prince of Egypt and its direct-to-video follow-up Joseph: King of Dreams.

Now 10 years old, The Prince of Egypt is both an ambitious artistic triumph and a moving testament to faith. From the burning bush to the grand finale at the Red Sea, DreamWorks Animation’s debut film achieves true grandeur befitting the great saving works of God it depicts (something lacking in the recent Christian-produced cartoon The Ten Commandments). Emotionally, imaginatively and visually, The Prince of Egypt is among the most satisfying biblical films ever made.

While not on the same level artistically as its big-screen predecessor, Joseph: King of Dreams brings a similar sensibility to a retelling that is both creative and possibly even more reverent. Standout sequences including Joseph’s dreams, which look like living, flowing Van Goghs. The music is okay, but the message is clear: “You know better than I / You know the way / I’ve let go the need to know why / I’ll take the answers You supply.”

Among the crop of DreamWorks two-packs to skip is the pairing of Mesoamerican comedy-adventure The Road to El Dorado and Old West equine melodrama Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

Though visually splendid, The Road to El Dorado is tepid in most other respects — except the raciness of native temptress Chel, whose vamping of one of the protagonists is too suggestive for a family film. In fact, the whole premise of two conniving 15th-century Spanish antiheroes posing as “mighty and powerful gods” while plotting to loot the New World city of gold is poor family fare. The surrounding material, though, is too juvenile for older viewers.

An even worse misfire, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is a politically correct morality play about Evil White Imperialists vs. Noble Oppressed Minorities Living in Harmony with Nature — minus the comic relief, cute sidekicks and catchy sing-along tunes Disney would have added as the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Aren’t horse movies supposed to celebrate the bond between humans and horses? What genius thought we’d want to watch a tortured horse who only wants to be run free and have nothing to do with humans?

Content advisory

The Prince of Egypt: Exodus-related violence and themes, including abuse of slaves, a restrained slaughter of the innocents, plagues, etc. Might be too much for sensitive youngsters. Joseph: King of Dreams: Fraternal strife and betrayal; slavery and imprisonment. Fine family viewing. The Road to El Dorado: Animated sensuality and action violence; minor profanity and crass language; dishonest protagonists posing as gods and plotting to rob natives. Aimed at older kids. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron: Recurring menace and oppression; mild violence; politically correct stereotyping. Aimed at kids.