“Exodus Gods and Kings” falls short of royally pleasing audiences

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First Posted: 12/15/2014

Let me be perfectly clear, I did not love “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

I will not recommend this movie to friends, loved ones or – if I happened to be drunk on a Tuesday afternoon – strangers in a parking garage. But with that said, I did not dislike “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. Why? About halfway through “Exodus’s” nearly three hour running time, Moses (Christian Bale who seems to have been instructed to make his performance at least 70 percent more ‘Russell Crowe-ish’) gets bonked on the head with a rock altering his personality and causing him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

If this plot device sounds oddly familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it used before in most of your favorite sitcoms and cartoon shows. There’s something comforting about a religious epic that makes you briefly forget about locusts and seraphim and other bible-y, religion-y things and reminds you of that episode of “The Flintstones” where Fred gets hit on the head by a bowling ball and thinks he’s a baby.

Although overlong and kind of a mess, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” has enough kitschy elements to keep you mildly entertained.

Best known for serving as the inspiration behind the Cable Ace award winning “A Rugrats Passover”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a tale as old as time told somewhat indifferently by four different screenwriters and a director who basically stopped trying after “Hannibal”. In the film an aging emperor selects his most trusted general over his own, vain son to be his heir.

However, when the emperor dies, the general’s family is assassinated and the general is forced to fight for his life in a series of gladiator games. A profound sense of revenge against the man who ruined his life and took away his family is the only thing that’s keeping the general alive. Oh, wait. I think that’s something else. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is actually about an aging Pharaoh (John Turturro) who would like to select his adopted son (Bale) over his own, vain son (Joel Edgerton) to be his heir but cannot. When the Pharaoh dies, the adopted son is exiled and forced to herd sheep for a living. A profound sense of revenge against the man who will not let his people go is the only thing keeping the adopted son alive. Ah! You see! Much different!

Awkwardly filtering the Old Testament through director Ridley Scott’s very own “Gladiator”, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” wants to be an old-fashioned, fire and brimstone epic in the mold of Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” as well as a more naturalistic, revisionist take on the gospels. But it’s a combination that doesn’t really work. You can’t say, “Hey everybody! Do you remember those seven plagues? Well those were just a bunch of natural disasters that God had absolutely nothing to with. Well, except for the last one with the first-born children. God did that one and maybe all the others. I don’t know. Whatevsies. BT Dubs, God is a petty, condescending 11-year-old British boy that lives inside the brain of Moses. Not really, jk. He’s fake, jk. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” can’t make up its mind over what it is and it’s exhausting and odd.

On the plus side, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is campy in a pure, unselfconscious way. The lily-white cast is slathered in bronzer but still retain their British accents (except for a bald, heavily mascara-ed Turturro who, as Egyptian Pharaoh Seti, affects a fey, British accent. Much like all Egyptian Pharaohs). There are scenes like the one in which Moses’ Israelite past is revealed and plays eerily like a paternity test episode of “Maury” with an American accented Sigourney Weaver playing the part of an enraged audience member who just knows that Moses is lying through his teeth. Aaron Paul is also on hand to sufficiently Aaron Paul-up the proceedings to ensure that it’s always weird to see Jesse Pinkman outside the scummy universe of “Breaking Bad” especially if that world happens to be ancient Egypt. Additionally, Edgerton is shown cuddling up with a live cobra and, later on, a wobbly, very unnatural silicon baby corpse that wiggles and jiggles all about as he desperately attempts to emote without breaking up on camera. In some ways it’s all too fitting that Scott dedicated “Exodus: Gods and Kings” to the memory of his brother Tony because, much like late brother Scott’s own movies, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is prolonged, really stupid and oh, so regrettable.

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