DVD Picks & Passes

The Ten Commandments (2007) - Pick

The Brave One (2007) - Pass

Recently released on DVD, The Ten Commandments is a Christian-produced computer-animated retelling of the Exodus that sticks closer to the biblical narrative than DreamWorks’ classic The Prince of Egypt — and tells more of the story.

Unfortunately, the low-budget animation and lackluster writing doesn’t compare to the earlier film — a comparison the new film begs by ripping off a number of interpretive conceits (Ramses grousing at Moses for getting him in trouble!).

On the plus side, where The Prince of Egypt ends with a glimpse of Moses on Sinai with the stone tablets, The Ten Commandments offers the rest of the story: water from the rock, manna and quail, the giving of the Law, the golden calf, the ark and tabernacle; Moses’ death and the Hebrews’ entry into the Promised Land under Joshua. Even DeMille didn’t get all that in.

Catholics will note that the manna has a distinctly host-like appearance — probably an accidental resonance in a film that (as in DeMille) gives the Protestant enumeration of the Commandments, with two on idolatry and one on coveting rather than the other way around. (For young viewers, “coveting” is rendered “want what belongs to someone else,” and “bear false witness” is “lie.”

Strangely, rather than the traditional division of “love of God” commandments on one tablet and “love of neighbor” on the other, there are simply five apiece.)

Voicework is mixed. Alfred Molina’s Ramses is the film’s best asset, but Christian Slater’s Moses (!) lacks authority and gravitas. As the voice of God, Elliott Gould seems more like a Vulcan than the Almighty, composed and reasonable, but lacking warmth and transcendence.

Still, despite weaknesses, The Ten Commandments may be worth a look.

Also recently released on DVD, Neil Jordan’s The Brave One stars Jodie Foster as Erica Bain, a happy, well-adjusted New Yorker who suffers a violent tragedy that sets her on the path to a series of vigilante killings. It’s a puzzle of a movie — the puzzle being how two intelligent Hollywood liberals like Jordan and Foster could have thought they were making an anti-violence movie when it’s really just a conventional revenge flick.

Rather than questioning media-exaggerated fears of violence, The Brave One reinforces them. Although we’re reminded (twice) that New York is “the safest big city in the world,” we’re also subjected to a battery of unrelated incidents of horrifying brutality, any one of which is potentially plausible, but which collectively defy all credibility.

Every slimeball Erica encounters menaces her with remorseless, repulsive sadism. Nobody just has a rude comment or wants to steal her purse — everyone wants to bludgeon or shoot her, mutilate and molest her, enslave her, run her over, what have you. It’s as ridiculous as it is offensive.

Content advisory

The Ten Commandments: Mild Exodus imagery depicting the plagues, the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea and so on. Okay family viewing. The Brave One: Much menace and graphic violence; brief but strong sexuality with brief nudity; obscene, profane and crude language. Targeted at mature audiences.