“Exodus: Gods and Kings” (2014)

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★★☆☆☆

On parchment, this should have been a good movie. Ridley Scott directing. Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, and even John Turturro starring. Sadly, much like biting into a Matzoh, this movie is bland and flavorless.

For starters, Bale looks about as Jewish as Denis Leary. He’s supposed to be a “Hebrew” and this little bit of casting simply doesn’t work. Bale is a fine actor but in this epic he looks kind of confused and out of place. Kingsley’s performance is wooden. Turturro as King Seti does a decent job – but he looks and sounds more “Hewbrew” than Moses. So the whole thing looks weird. Ramses is portrayed as an ineffectual dolt who’s brutal and all that, but whose decision-making skills would make George W. Bush look like Boris Spassky. Like the rest of the characters he’s simply not believable. Oh – and if that wasn’t enough, Yahweh is portrayed by an 11-year old boy. No – really.

The script feels like a 40-year schlep even though it’s “only” two and a half hours long. There’s a lot of time spent with Moses in exile tending sheep and being a stay-at-home prophet. By comparison, the cool stuff – the plagues – is over in about 10 minutes. Slaves are mistreated in a mostly abstract way. That is, they’re whipped and hung and the dead bodies are burned and all that – but there’s no time spent on how the people (any people in this movie) are affected by this behavior.

There’s a weird scene in the middle where Moses goes all commando and starts burning the Kings boats in a “war of attrition.” So, the King retaliates by burning Hebrews in their homes. Quite the military strategist our Moses is, huh? Oh – did I mention that he spends the first half hour of the film being a very successful Egyptian General? Yup – but somehow he becomes the military equivalent of Saddam Hussein as soon as he learns he’s a Hebrew. At which point 11-year-old God takes over and makes with the plagues.

It’s just so stupid. The whole “parting the seas” is over in a couple of minutes. There’s no sense of tension or suspense. So what if we all know what the outcome is, the script and direction are so bad you almost wish they all drowned.

The special effects – the battles, plagues, and sea-parting – are obviously all CGI. By “obviously” I mean that it’s all so over-the-top with cramming as many animated elements onto the screen that it’s not the least bit believable. It feels completely fake. All of it.

The only reason I don’t give this one star is that the overall production values are pretty good. It feels like an old-time epic movie from that perspective. But, dear Lord, it’s dull. This one isn’t worth paying for under any circumstances – if you really must see it, wait for it to come to Netflix.