The new film released by Gkids, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, is a tough film for me to review. It has great stuff wrapped in a not-so great packaging. There is a side of me that wants to give it a free pass because it is made with such love and devotion, it is in 2D animation and the parts that are good are really good. But for long segments the The Prophet feels like a Sunday School lesson and so I am torn on it.
The Prophet is based on Kahlil Gibran’s book of poetry called The Prophet, which is a popular book of spiritual affirmations and positive thoughts. Evidently it was a passion project for Salma Hayek who produced the film.
To set up for the poetry they have a framing device of a man named Mustafa (voiced by Liam Neeson) who has been on house arrest for stirring up the people and giving them hope. He is a prophet of some kind, a very Messianic like character. There is a little girl named Almitra (voiced by Quenzhane Wallis) who has refused to talk for 2 years because of the death of her father.
These sections reminded me of the old Living Scriptures animated movies we used to watch in Sunday School but even those had an actual story (Daniel and the Lions Den, David and Goliath etc). This is just a lot of Almitra getting into trouble, authorities moving them around and then Mustafa proselytizing to the people for long segments.
There are 8 shorts within the framing device directed by some of the great artists and animators of our time and those are wonderful but it’s all the other stuff that is tough to sit through. I’m surprised Lion King director Roger Allers wasn’t able to wring more drama out of it. They were just too long and boring. Perhaps they should have just done it Fantasia style with a concert and shorts approach? That would have been much better because you would have gotten right to the cream filling!
Anyway, the 8 shorts are
animated by Michal Socha, Sound designer Bartek Baranowski. A beautiful segment with birds and wires symbolizing both being caged and released.
Animated by Nina Paley, Music by Damien Rice. From the creator of Sita Sings the Blues a beautiful short
Directed and Designed by Joann Sfar a tango of sorts that was a very strong effort.
Directed, designed and animated by Joan Gratz (this one was a particular favorite of mine. It reminded me of Van Gogh painting)
On Eating and Drinking-
Directed, designed, animated by Bill Plympton (another favorite)
Directed by Tomm Moore. This one really had a strong narrative and I kind of wish it was a feature not just a short.
On Good and Evil-
Directed by Mohammed Saeed Harib
I found this segment available online. It will give you a feel for the picture.
Directed, designed, animated by Paul Brizzi, Gaetan Brizzi. It reminded me of the same animators efforts on Fantasia 2000. Beautiful.
The voice cast is all fine. Liam Neeson is of course good as Mustafa and Salma Hayek is endaring as Kamila. Even now I’m finding myself saying ‘it was pretty good’ but I’m telling you while I was watching those framing segments were really hard to sit through.
My advice on this film get it on dvd and go to the shorts. Watching it that way you would have an argument for one of the best of the year. In a way it is a little bit of a shame they are all together because what a great race we’d have for Best Animated Short with all these greats contributing!
It’s tough to give a grade to a film that is so up and down. A film that tries so hard even in the sections that don’t work…I love the shorts so overall I’m inclined to be generous towards it I suppose.
Overall Grade- B-
No content problems that I saw. PG and even Bill Plympton keeps it clean 🙂