The Prince of Egypt (*** ½) - This is truly a landmark in animated entertainment. Hopefully the traditional Disney animators will wake up and take notice after delivering Hercules and Mulan which not only don’t compare to their own previous works but can’t hold a candle to the recent slate of computer-enhanced animation and The Prince of Egypt. The film is so breathtaking in each and every frame of animation that even if you don’t give a damn about the story you could still enjoy it.Which is not to say the story isn’t great. For Christ’s sake it comes from the Bible. And anyone who watches The Ten Commandments regularly on Easter will enjoy it even more. One of the things that I appreciated so much on a story level was that it went a little further with the plague sequences than the De Mille versions ever could. The river of blood sequence also becomes an impressively disturbing scene. The story we all know and the film does an impressive job of squeezing it into a 90-minute version that remains compelling even if you have no previous knowledge of the material (which seems impossible). It would be very interesting to see what a 3-hour animated version of the Moses tale could have amounted to. Still, this remains one of the great achievements of 1998. Every single song that is played throughout the film is terrific. I enjoyed every one of them. And the music score by Hans Zimmer is easily one of the best of the year. It appropriately evoked goosebumps in a many number of scenes, most notably during the parting of the red sea which is easily one of the best animated sequences in history. The exile from slavery is also one of the most emotionally powerful animated sequences of all time. The song “When You Believe” as sung within the context of the film by the two female characters is heartbreaking, which brings me to my only real complaint with the film or more so the filmmakers. The final 40 minutes of the film dealing with the plagues, exile, etc… is near perfect. I would have liked to see a little more of Moses transformation into savior, but that’s still not my main complaint. It has to do with the decision to let Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey sing the “radio/end credits” version of “When You Believe”. As I said before, the song without them, in the film, is perfect, both in timing and style. The Houston/Carey collaboration is wretched. There maybe some bias here since I can’t stand Mariah Carey and I haven’t liked Whitney ever since I saw The Bodyguard. But that being said, their version sounds more like Dueling Banjos with a couple of ego-driven divas. The banjo analogy naturally relates to Deliverance which relates to sodomy. Get the picture? Mariah may be able to hit notes no human can stand (I mean “match”) but given her recent public and video appearances in the last year, one would think Mariah could do more wondrous things with that mouth of hers. But I digress. The radio version of the song contains Mariah’s signature screaming in place of singing and Whitney seems content on matching her fingernails on a never-ending blackboard style. I wish there was technology to erase the two of them and just listen to the music and the background singers. As I sat in the theater in awe of what I had just seen, nothing could make me move from my seat - except that damn song.I shouldn’t fault the film for this because it is a near masterpiece of animation and just (and I mean just) misses the 4-star plateau, but if I hear that God Damned song one more time and it makes me want to forget the welled-up feeling I had during the flight from slavery sequence, I might have to penalize another half star.