This is part two of my "Films about Jesus" Christmas Review. Part one was Last Days in the Desert.
For Part Two, I'm reviewing the one movie on my list that only deals with Jesus' birth, The Nativity Story.
The Nativity Story follows a year in the life of Mary and Joseph, Herod and his son, and the wisemen as their destinies intertwine as the birth of Jesus Christ arrives.
The Nativity Story is not interested in staying close to the Biblical account of Mary and Joseph's life leading up to the birth of Jesus but the Christian community didn't throw up it's arms in outrage because The Nativity Story did something that Christians often find even more important it stayed true to the myths, legends and tropes that have filled the Christian imagination for the last 1800 years. Not only are Christmas hymns incorporated into the soundtrack but every hole (in the Biblical account) has been filled by useless Christian tradition (in the dead sense) that has not only been overdone but is also stale, boring and completely unnecessary. In the artistic licence department, this movie is the antithesis to Noah (which was a much better movie, by all accounts). At best the movie is watchable, at worst it exemplifies the type of kitsch that make Christianity look childish and silly. Such as, the glowing angel in white flowing robes who arrives and leaves as a bird.
One part in particular had my face in my palm praying that it would end quickly (it didn't). As the (3) wise men watch the stars come into alignment a shaft of light bursts forth and beams straight into the stable where Mary is currently in labour. My very first thought (I kid you not) was that a divine tractor-beam was going to pull Jesus straight out of Mary's womb! And the light stayed, providing the perfect light to create a 'nice' (kitsch) nativity scene that is so often displayed on the shelves of people's home every year.
On top of this, modernist presuppositions leak into the story as well. In usual Hollywood fashion, Mary is unhappy with the reality of having an arranged marriage, and wishes she could have married for love. Like she was secretly hoping for things to be the way they had never been before.
In playing it overly safe for the Christian market the filmmakers have opted out of making a film with depth, subtlety and character development and have instead settled with a shallow surface level reading of the story that is as kitschy as it is unoriginal. This all makes the movie a huge disappointment, especially considering that a lot of detail went into sets and costumes. If you're wanting to see something with a little originality, learn something new, and be entertained, you're better off checking out one of your local churches christmas plays than watching this.
** Two stars