Commandments [1997]

Val Kilmer stars as Moses in The Ten Commandments--The Musical, an almost entirely sung stage adaptation of the biblical book of Exodus, captured on video from a production in Los Angeles. This is one of those profoundly misconceived ideas that self-destructs before your very eyes: From the moment Moses' mother Yokebed places an obvious rubber doll into a video projection of flowing water, you know that every step of this production will fall laughably short of its ambitions. The score is like an interminable 1980s power ballad; the choreography amounts to little more than generic leaps and erotic floundering; the awkward lyrics include such gems as "Metaphysics and religion, philosophy and love/A prince has got to know some things about all of the above"; and the actors deliver the insanely exuberant performances that only come from musical theater kids who think they're finally getting their big break. The story's moments of spectacle--the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea--are depicted by cheesy computer graphics projected on a giant screen behind the stage. Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang , Heat) is the only actor (aside from the French-accented Pharoah) with chest hair; was that in his contract, or was he too lazy to shave? Egyptian glitz and Jewish tatters are equally campy (just wait for the orgiastic Golden Calf scene!). This is for those who savor oblivious badness. --Bret Fetzer

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