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Critics flee 'Exodus' but box office holds up.

'N ice of you to come!" That's what an irritated Christian Bale, as Moses, says to God, at one point during Ridley Scott's 2-1/2-hour epic, "Exodus: Gods and Kings."

Giving this remark an even stranger, non-Biblical feel is that Ridley's conception of God, is a peevish 10-year-old boy. Yep. The Big Guy is not a mighty voice, or the typical bearded gentlemen of certain years. Who knows what Ridley intended with this casting?

The God of Israel, of the Old Testament was a capricious, jealous, vengeful type. (I mean, he did kill all the innocent first-born of Egypt. And then there was the business with Job, and Isaac and the Great Flood.) Was Ridley trying to convey that he believed only a child could be so contrary and cruel?

It hardly bears too much thought, as Ridley, of "Gladiator" fame, pretty much fails to inspire or entertain with "Exodus." It's not just the absurd miscasting of every major role. It's not just the generally dour atmosphere and the sketchy script, which results in equally sketchy performances, and a muddled theme. It's all of that!

Nobody sets out to make a bad movie, as Elizabeth Taylor once told me, and surely Ridley Scott didn't. Not with that mammoth budget, and Batman himself, the savior of Gotham, transformed into the savior of the Jews. But with the exception of the undeniably impressive CGI -- the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, vistas displaying the great city and surging masses -- this is tough going.

Clearly Scott didn't want to make an entirely faith-based movie; it certainly veers off the biblical tale, and at least one or two of the miraculous/terrible travails placed upon Egypt, seem to have more or less "natural" causes. One doesn't get to see God "writing" The Ten Commandments, Moses just appears with them. Maybe Ridley's child-God hadn't learned to write yet? Bale never intones "Let my people go!" to his former friend and brother, Ramses (Joel Edgerton in a lot of eye makeup.) This Moses isn't nearly as proactive or deliciously annoying as Charlton Heston was in DeMille's fabulous "The Ten Commandments."

If you stick around for the last hour of''Exodus,'' there's no denying the impact of the CGI effects. Gargantuan.

But, big deal. DeMille did it with real sets and real people. And whatever critics, then and now, had to say about the dialogue in his films, or the over-the-top performances he often encouraged, especially in "The Ten Commandments," those words made a point, held interest and encouraged some pretty wild drinking games. (One shot of tequila for each time Anne Baxter moans, "Oh, Moses, Moses!" You'll be hammered well before the exodus.)

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 16, 2014
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