The Nativity Story is 2006's answer to The Passion of the Christ - it is just one of those answers that a fundamentalist would give to shrug off global warming: shallow, emotionless and without thought.
Keisha Castle-Hughes, coming off Oscar-nominated success for Whale Rider and a role in Star Wars: Episode III, plays Mary, mother of Jesus. In hindsight, Castle-Hughes probably wasn't the best choice as she took her character a bit too seriously and got pregnant in real life - out of wedlock at age 16 - thus shunning her in the eyes of some conservatives. Director Catherine Hardwicke is the person behind the wonderful but sexually gritty Thirteen - also another weird choice to direct Christianity's most sacred and relatively family friendly story. Still, these are two fine talents here who are capable of making any movie good. Right?
Wrong. Wrong! WRONG! The Nativity Story is one of the lamest, dullest, least interesting movies I have seen in a long while. It's not just that I'm an atheist, because I can appreciate a good film regardless of its religious slant (again, I come back to The Passion of the Christ), but this movie is hastily done and so PG that it looks like it was assembled by a Sunday school class.
Apparently, The Nativity Story was rushed to theaters to avoid an onslaught of similarly themed movies being developed by other studios, and this is ample proof that rushing things is never good. Since Mel Gibson's groundbreaking film, plenty of studios have tried to take advantage of the religious market, and most have failed (unless you count The Chronicles of Narnia). The reason? The studios are taking the religious market for granted. Religious people don't want religious movies. They want good religious movies. And The Nativity Story is not one of them.
The movie jumps from one scene to the next, attempting to be gritty in all its PG-rated goodness by throwing in some moments of oppression, plotting rulers and so on and so forth. Hardwicke took a relatively light story and tried to liven it up by adding dirt and grime, but in the end you're still stuck with a relatively light story. I feel like I've watched this movie a dozen times at church (yes, I did go to church at one point), only it was performed by little children with no acting talent. There is nothing added to the story, no attempt to dramatize things or even make things feel realistic. I was expecting a film that tried to depict how The Nativity Story really happened in a historical sense, but instead the movie is anything but. Too afraid to be even the slight bit controversial, The Nativity Story is full of shining lights and narration by God and scenes that just feel fluffy and ultimately hoaky.
The Nativity Story isn't just a waste of talent, but a blatant "F-you" at every intelligent audience member. How can anyone be expected to like a movie slapped together at the last second, full of cheesy scenes and underdeveloped characters? Just because we all know who Mary, mother of Jesus, is, doesn't give a movie the right to leave her undeveloped, especially when she is the main character. Avoid The Nativity Story, and go watch something a bit more interesting. Dogma, anyone?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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