It all begins when the dashing young prince Ramayana (“Ram” to his friends) is exiled with his bride Sita and brother Lakshman in the aftermath of a succession spat. Unfortunately, the three head into the wilderness, which is the domain of the evil sorcerer Ravan. Feeling threatened, Ravan kidnaps Sita to lure Ram into a trap. But the effort backfires and Ram and Lakshman undertake an epic odyssey to track down Ravan's lair and rescue Sita, along the way joining forces with Hanuman, a monkey with magical powers who volunteers the assistance of his oppressed people and their army to help defeat Ravan and his demons.
Anyone who has seen mid-level Japanese anime on the order of “Princess Mononoke” will know what to expect from “The Prince of Light.” While the story is firmly rooted in Indian lore, the style and oftentimes simplistically juvenile approach to the story, including some horrendously inappropriate humor, is unmistakably Japanese.
One can also see an effort to incorporate some of the successes of Disney animation into the story, namely the integration of songs--though most of them have a traditional Indian flavor. At least two of the songs, however, seem to have been modified, if not created expressly for the American release. One, a generic pop ballad, is entirely out of place.
It's clear the filmmakers wanted to make the film as accessible as possible to children and as engaging as possible for adults. The compromises taken to these ends don't always serve the film's best narrative interests, but they do appear to further the goal of making “The Prince of Light” appeal to the broadest possible family demographic.
It's not “Aladdin” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a nice change of pace from longstanding Hollywood animation formulas. Voiced by Bryan Cranston, Edie Mirman, Tom Wyner, Richard Cansino and Michael Sorich. Directed by Yugo Sako. Written by Krishna Shah & Yugo Sako. Produced by Yugo Sako and Krishna Shah. A Showcase Entertainment release. Anime/Family. Rated PG for mythic battle violence. Running time: 89 min.