September 30, 2004
The NY Times gets bitchy: Iceman = Moses
Sometimes, a movie or play is released that is so bad and misguided that all serious critics can do is throw up their hands to the heavens and craft an unbelievably mean and belittling review, which is, of course, the very best kind. We then bring you lovingly chosen excerpts for your reading pleasure.
The play: The Ten Commandments (with advertising tagline: "Val Kilmer Is Moses"), a pop opera opening in LA, after a 2001 debut in Paris. The Paris production was a huge hit, but didn't feature the LA version's cast, director, or score. Some details about the New Ten Commandments:
The Review Title: "He Sings, He Dances, He Parts the Red Sea", by Charles Isherwood
"This bland, static, overproduced and underdirected musical all but submerges the famous episodes from Moses' life in an oily sea of pleasant but unremarkable pop music. The legendary journey unfolds here like a long, lumbering fancy-dress episode of 'American Idol.'"
The star: Val Kilmer. "It's tempting to let the phrase that has been used as the advertising tag for The Ten Commandments, the pop opera that opened this week, stand as its critical epitaph. To wit: 'Val Kilmer Is Moses.'
It isn't Mr. Kilmer's name that should appall optimistic musical theater fans or delight specialists in showbiz schadenfreude. Nor is Moses the problem. That little verb is to blame. It is, in this context, ominously suggestive of the pretentious, the misguided, the monumentally silly. Val Kilmer is Batman? O.K. Val Kilmer is Jim Morrison? It worked. But Moses?"
The score: written by Patrick Leonard, who also wrote "Like a Prayer" and "Who's that Girl" for Madonna.
The director: Robert Iscove, "whose credits include the recent television version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella with Whitney Houston, the Freddie Prinze Jr. movie She's All That and something called, arrestingly, Romeo and Juliet on Ice.
Mr. Iscove's direction, abetted by cheesy hieroglyphic vogueing from the choreographer Travis Payne, also obscures more than it clarifies. The stage is perpetually awash in buffed slaves pushing slabs of stone and statuary around trying to escape the torments of their personal trainers - er, I mean their cruel Egyptian overlords. While they labor histrionically at the fringes, the principal performers trade places center stage, often dropping to their knees for emotive emphasis, trying to outdo one another in stretching a single syllable into a showstopper."
Thanks for the sass, Charles.
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