"The Prince of Egypt" is a film that I grew up with from the very start of my childhood. It was released to VHS and DVD around my fourth birthday. I remember being a youngster and receiving it as a present (oddly enough, it came with a little plush camel that was in the movie). I went for a little bit without watching it and then finally decided to pop it into the VCR (yup, I still remember the age of VHS and VCR) and something must have drawn me to it, because it was a film that I constantly watched when I was a kid.
As I got older, I did not watch it as frequently, the main reason being that we got rid of all our VCRs. So, I have had some time to distance myself from this film and think about it subjectively. Once we got Netflix, I found that it was one of the films on Instant Streaming (is that what you call it? Whatever). So, I sat down to watch it...and it's still a very impressive film. Not just on a technical level, but also on a dramatic level as well. When you hear the term "animated musical based on a Bible story", you might think to yourself "This is gonna be weird". But, thankfully, DreamWorks managed to turn in a very heartfelt, visually stunning, dramatic film that keeps true to the essence of the Moses story. Every time I watch this film, it increases in quality.
However, one of the things about this particular film that strikes a chord with me is the ending. SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN IT: After Moses and the Jewish people have escaped the clutches of the Egyptian soldiers, who have all been killed by a gigantic flood (save for Ramses), Moses looks out on the sea and we cut to an image of Ramses shouting his name in...either grief or anger; it's a little ambiguous. Then we cut back to Moses as he solemnly says "Goodbye, brother" (which is an echo of a line he said earlier in the film). Then, when the film ends, it shows Moses atop Mount Sinai holding the Ten Commandments (with some booming Hans Zimmer music in the background). Now, bear in mind that the whole film has been centering on the brotherhood between Moses and Ramses and how it is affected by these proceedings. Emotionally speaking, we want these two to become brothers again, but we know that it's not going to happen. So, in the end, Moses and Ramses ultimately did NOT get what they want nor did they get anything that they didn't know they wanted (well, in Moses' case, he probably ended up with the latter). Therefore, the ending to this film is a very bittersweet ending.
It might seem strange to harp on this, but I feel the need to do so since in this day in age, I haven't seen a lot of mainstream animated films that take this route (I am only referring to the Disney and Disney/Pixar films). It seems that in these mainstream animated films, the protagonist either gets what they want or doesn't get what they want and instead gets something better. A huge lesson is learned, everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow, and it's all sappy! The ONLY ending that I think comes close to the ending of "PoE" is the ending to "Toy Story 3" (I have only seen the ending of that film, just so you know), which is DEFINITELY bittersweet, but also still carries a tinge of hopefulness (just like the ending to "The Prince of Egypt").
Now, the fact that Disney and Pixar films usually have happy endings does NOT IN ANY WAY detract from the quality of their films. It's all just a matter of preference. And it's not that I don't prefer happy endings, but I just see them so much that I'd like to see an animated film that takes the route of "PoE", in that not everything is tied up in a nice little bow and not everything has been conquered nor has every battle been won.
But, on the other hand, I do understand the need to appeal to a mass audience, especially families. So, the happy ending is kind of a necessity for Disney and Pixar. I don't know. It's just my preference. If you guys have a different opinion, I'd like to hear it!