A National Catholic Register “DVD/Video Picks” review.
In 2003, Charlton Heston reprised his greatest role, if in voice only, in an animated made-for-TV version of Ben-Hur from the director and producers of the animated “Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible” series.
Though no classic, the animated Ben-Hur easily outclasses the “Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible” series as well as the similar “Animated Passion” trilogy directed by Richard Rich, simply because the drama of this sturdy tale is so strong, and the adaptation consisted largely in abridging for the 80-minute running time rather than dramatizing. (The absence of the “Greatest Heroes” series’ cheesy songs is also a major plus.) And of course it’s striking to hear Heston’s still-resonant, authoritative voice in that role again. (Heston also narrates.)
More than the great live-action adaptations, the animated Ben-Hur focuses on the “Tale of the Christ” aspect of the story. The animated version is the first adaptation of the story to show Jesus’ face or depict his voice (though it’s odd, and unfortunate, that the filmmakers chose to have Jesus speak in King James English when no one else is).
All things considered, the animated Ben-Hur is a fine way to introduce even the youngest, who might not be ready for the epic length or action violence of the live-action versions, to this classic tale of adversity, heroism, forgiveness, and redemption.
At nearly 2½ hours long, the 1925 version is still an hour shorter than the 1959 version, yet the story is essentially the same, and the scale similarly impressive.
The grandest of Hollywood’s classic biblical epics, William Wyler’s Ben-Hur doesn’t transcend its genre, with its emphasis on spectacle and melodrama, but it does these things about as well as they could possibly be done.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.