Oh… oh, this is going to be rich. The Nativity as told by talking animals. Oh do I have an atheist friend that I’m dragging to see this. He’ll kick, he’ll scream, he’ll cry, he’ll claw the ground with bloodied fingernails to resist me getting him in the theater, but I’m getting his butt in that seat to suffer with me.
Alright, so a little background on me. For those that don’t know, I’m Agnostic. I neither believe, nor disbelieve in God. I don’t blindly accept what a book tells, despite being open to the idea. Having said that, I was raised for much of my childhood to be a Catholic. I went to church on Sundays, even briefly took little classes that talked about the Bible. I remember little animated movies of different animation styles that talked about The Last Supper and Judas’ betrayal. Other than that, and one viewing of PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004) later, I know jack squat about the Bible. What can I say? Religion is boring and I prefer to distance myself from what far too many use as propaganda to spread intolerance and hate. I support the good fight that better Catholics and Christians do, but that’s their field of expertise, not mine.
The reason I bring this up is because I do not know the details of what is referred to as “The Nativity Story.” I probably know half of the bare bones basics. It’s the birth of Jesus Christ, three wise men give him gifts, and that’s it. So I have no idea if the movie is going to tell the story faithfully (Judging from the ratings I’m looking at, not likely), so I imagine even someone who doesn’t know the story will be able to pick up the inaccuracies and liberties. At the very worst, I’ll be able to pick up on what was made up… apart from the talking animals.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Steven Yeun (I ORIGINS . and TV shows VOLTRON [2016 – ongoing] and THE WALKING DEAD [2010 – ongoing]), Keegan-Michael Key (WHY HIM? , DUE DATE , MR 3000 , and upcoming films HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION  and THE PREDATOR ), Gina Rodriguez (DEEPWATER HORIZON , and upcoming films FERDINAND  and TV show CARMEN SANDIEGO ), Zachary Levi (THOR: RAGNAROK , and the upcoming SHAZAM! ), and Oprah Winfrey (SELMA , BEE MOVIE , THE COLOR PURPLE , and the upcoming A WRINKLE IN TIME ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Timothy Reckart, known for short films, making his feature film debut. Penning the screenplay is Carlos Kotkin, known for OPEN SEASON: SCARED SILLY (2015) and RIO 2 (2014). Finally, composing the score is John Paesano, known for SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME (2017), TV show DAREDEVIL (2015 – ongoing), video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA (2017), and upcoming films MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE (2018) and PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (2018).
Overall, no, this ain’t gonna be good. But you know what? I know that. I really do.
This is my honest opinion of: THE STAR
Bo (voiced by Steven Yeun) is a mill donkey whose life has strictly been grinding wheat. But he has dreams of joining the Royal Caravan and doing something important with his life alongside his best friend Dave (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) the dove. Turns out, they’re getting their chance at a new life when an angel descends from Heaven, tells Mary (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) that she’s going to be pregnant with the Messiah. The angel returns to Heaven, leaving a bright star in the sky and Bo decides that this is the sign he’s been needing to go on an adventure. Escaping his captivity and joining Mary and Joseph (voiced by Zachary Levi) on their journey to Bethlehem while being pursued by one of King Herod’s (voiced by Christopher Plummer) ruthless soldiers to kill the future Messiah.
Yup! It’s bad. But like I said before, I knew that going in. But if you’re going to be a parent and ask, “Well, is it suitable for children?” Yeah, sure, I guess. There’s nothing offensive, unless you count modern speech patterns, or phrases like, “Yeah, totally,” set 2,000 years ago, then kids will be fine. But adults like me will be in for a long eighty minutes.
Should I even bother mentioning anything positive? Eh, fine, I will, but I do it under protest as they don’t save the movie. The first positive thing I can say, the animation on the angel that visits Mary was pretty. And Ruth (voiced by Aidy Bryant) was occasionally not annoying.
That’s about it. The rest of the movie is so phoned in, you’d swear a free app created this movie but had a surprisingly large budget to warrant a star-studded cast, which might be the most impressive thing about the flick. Bo might as well be a Disney princess who thinks there must be more than this provincial life. Yeun certainly brings a comedic energy, but because his character is so bland and uninteresting that his talent is wasted here. This applies to the entire cast, really. Key isn’t funny, which is an accomplishment in of itself. Seriously, how does that happen? One would think having him in your movie would be a gift-wrapped bundle of comedy, but nope, his talents are wasted as well.
Oh man is the music annoying here. If there isn’t some obnoxious pop rendition of a public domain Christmas song playing, there’s original music, if you can call it that, that ruins scenes even more. Like, a scene that’s supposed to have drama and emotion at its core would be fine enough if there wasn’t any music, letting those emotions sink in. But because this movie talks down to kids, the music has to go all Randy Newman on us and sing about the emotions that we know the characters are feeling with obvious lyrics. To add insult to injury, there’s SO MANY OF THEM! Holy cow, I can’t believe how bad my headache got. I swear, it got to a point where a scene ends, a pop number plays. A scene ends, then a pop number plays. Ugh! Shut up, movie!
The jokes aren’t funny and half the time, the characters have to explain their own jokes. Bad enough that they’re not funny, but everyone knows explaining the joke ruins it even more and makes it unbearable. A clear indication that there was zero effort put into the script itself. The slapstick is incredibly forced, only put in there because, you know, kids laugh at pain. And if the jokes aren’t getting explained, the plot is. There’s a scene with the camels overhearing what King Herod is plotting and then immediately are like, “Oh no! I knew that king was up to no good!” Yeah… it’s like the movie thinks the audience has the attention span of squirrels and they weren’t paying attention. Then again, the movie is pretty boring, so it’s probably a good thing that the movie thinks we fell asleep at some point because we probably did.
Some moments don’t even make sense. Like when the Three Wise Men visit King Herod, they present him with gifts. When he thanks them, the Wise Men say, “Oh they’re not for you. They’re for the Messiah.” Um… first off, why present him presents if they weren’t for him. Second, why mention there’s a Messiah on the horizon, who is likely a known threat to any king’s rule? Kind of a bonehead move, if you ask me. Look, again, I never read the Bible, nor do I know the Nativity Story in any way, so for all I know, the Wise Men never visited the King, but even if this was true, then I would think this amount of honesty would royally backfire. “Wise” Men indeed. Phooey!
I think the greatest insult that I was inflicted on me was how it rips off TANGLED (2010). No joke, it really does. Levi plays a character who doesn’t get along with the horse-like animal, but become friends toward the end of the story. Okay, so the similarities end there, and it’s more of a cute coincidence rather than a full-blown steal. But the fact that this movie made me think about TANGLED and desperately would have rather watched that, then this is a great insult! Curse you, movie!
Overall, it’s not a good movie. If you wanted an eighty minute cliffnote of the cliffnotes of what the Nativity story is, then this movie will do it for you. But if you’re expecting a good movie, with comedy, drama, and deep, thought-provoking ideas, then you’ll get it… if you’re a toddler, which I wager is who this movie is aimed for. I don’t recommend this movie, even if your kid begs you or you just want a family outing at the movies. COCO (2017) is out in theaters right now. Get yourself an upgrade. No, it’s not particularly insulting, there’s no bad or perverted morals, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. The story of the first Christmas is more of a black hole of quality storytelling than a star.
My honest rating for THE STAR: 2/5