Film

Film

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A kiddie biopic of Islam’s founder retold through Hollywood-style animation, Muhammad: The Last Prophet opts for wholesome credos rather than smarmy back talk—think Aladdin without wisecracks or musical numbers. Delayed here post–9-11, it opens stateside to coincide with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr; appropriately, the humanist messages of faith and love are not dissimilar in spirit to the children’s holiday specials long seen on Christmastime TV. A major formal hurdle is the traditional taboo on visual depictions of Muhammad. The animators get around this by sidelining most of the action to secondary characters. More ingeniously, when Muhammad must appear, the tale switches to the prophet’s first-person perspective, so that a climactic battle resembles a video-game screen; the theological implications of such viewer-identification would no doubt make for great post-show family discussions. Though noble in its intent to portray Islam as a peace-loving faith, the narrative flow remains compromised by its catechistic asides and displaced hero. Nonetheless, this utopian image of a pop-culture-friendly, Americanized Islam could be the beginning of more to come—perhaps Veg-Jihad Tales?