"The 10 Commandments" review
Gazette religion writer Paul Asay weighs in on the new ABC miniseries that begins at 8 p.m. Monday:
Let's face it: Charlton Heston is a hard act to follow.
ABC's "The Ten Commandments," a lavish four-hour miniseries airing April 10-11, features Dougray Scott as the desert-romping, staff-weilding Moses -- a larger-than-life Biblical figure whom Heston made, um, even more famous in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille epic.
Heston cut such a commanding figure as Moses -- what with his white hair and thundering voice -- that, when his time comes, he'll probably stand in for Moses all the time during heavenly celebrity ribbon-cuttings.
Scott's Moses isn't so much kinder and gentler as just a bit more down-to-earth and conflicted. Heston's immaculate white hair has been replaced with scruffy brown -- appropriate for a guy who lived 3,000 years before the invention of the hair dryer. The new Moses is God's devoted if sometimes grumpy servant. Being the Lord's go-to guy isn't all peaches and cream, and several times Scott struggles with God's sometimes harsh judgement calls. You get the sense that, all things being equal, he'd like to stop leading all those Hebrews through the desert and settle down in the
The miniseries cost a reported $23 million to make and features a spectacular computer-generated parting of the Red Sea and the talents of several well-known actors. Omar Sharif of "Lawrence of Arabia" shows up as Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, and "Lost's" Naveen Andrews is a well-meaning but ultimately doomed Egyptian general. Ironically, Andrews and Sharif are the only folks who look like they would've grown up in Egypt. Most other characters, including Scott, are European transplants -- a move that I think hurts the authenticity of the film.
Still, the miniseries presents a compelling look at the fertile crescent of 3,000 years ago and adheres to the biblical book of Exodus, um, religiously. Sure, it adds a few elements here and there, and there's a curious scene at the end where Moses appears to carve a second set of commandments himself. But overall, the miniseries treats Moses' story with reverence and doesn't shy away from some of Exodus' more troubling, bloody episodes. At one point, while Moses is off talking with God about the commandments, the Hebrews start worshipping a golden calf. The miniseries deals with the aftermath of that idolic move -- the death of 3,000 people, according to Exodus.
Overall, the miniseries is a well-crafted look at Exodus -- far more historically realistic and Biblically true than the 1956 version. Will it serve as inspiration to the faithful? An Old Testament "The Passion of the Christ?" Sorry, no. But if you're interested in seeing a Moses who acts more like you and me than Charlton Heston, it's worth your time.