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The Star – Movie Review

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The Star – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

The idea of retelling the Nativity Story from the point of view of the stable animals seems like it might be disrespectful for those who view Jesus’s birth as an important event in their religion. However, director Timothy Reckart and the team at Sony Pictures Animation manages to handle it in a respectable way. That’s something to be admired about The Star, even if the final product is altogether harmless and aimed at a specific niche audience. This is the kind of film Christian parents will buy for their children as a way for them to learn about the first Christmas. In that regard, it does an okay job, though there is little appeal beyond that demographic.

While the main character is a donkey with an obvious story arc, The Star gives plenty of focus to Mary and Joseph dealing with this heavy responsibility. For those who only know the basics of the story, the film manages to convey it in understandable terms. Most importantly, the animals add to the story rather than intrude. Reckart seems have a clear respect for the material and doesn’t shy away from religious doctrine, though the harshest aspects of the Bible are understandably not alluded to. Nobody will accuse the humour as being blasphemous, as it’s mostly the animals who are given comedic lines to say and the film, for the most part, avoids scatological humour. Even anachronistic pop-culture references are avoided, as are distracting soundtrack choices.

The Virgin Mary is the most well rounded of the characters and ultimately the most sympathetic. Gina Rodriguez imbues a lot of sweetness in her vocal performance and it’s clear how much the filmmakers revere her as an important figure in Jesus’s life. Joseph is mostly relegated to being annoyed and befuddled by the animals, but one could argue he has a lot on his mind. Learning your wife is pregnant with a religious messiah wouldn’t be easy for anyone to grapple with. Bo the Donkey’s storyline is fairly generic and he goes through obvious beats, but he’s never intrusive or annoying and there are some decent laughs gained from the camels of the Three Wise Men. A sheep that tags along on the journey feels a bit superfluous, though, as are the three animals residing in that famous stable.

Sony Pictures Animation outsourced the production to Montreal-based studio Cinesite and while hardly groundbreaking, the character animation and backgrounds are visually pleasing with an appropriately friendly colour palette. The physical comedy works, although the more outlandish facial expressions come across as a tad off. One goat looks like he jumped out of a direct-to-video production and feels out-of-place with the other character designs. The Star glides along at a decent pace, but also has time for quiet moments. The end credits tag mentions the film taking a few departures from Biblical text, but the film otherwise feels like a proper animated rendition with a couple of extra comedic flourishes.

While The Star doesn’t stand out as a particularly memorable or remarkable film, it’s easy to admire its sincerity. Even as somebody not of that faith and with no personal attachment to the Jesus Christ story, it’s still important to acknowledge the respect held in telling this material. The Star won’t appeal beyond a niche audience and it’s hard to recommend it to anyone beyond those who attend regular church services. As an animated feature on its own terms, one wishes it was more inventive and the writing had a bit more sparkle to it. Nonetheless, this isn’t a bad viewing for a family on a Sunday afternoon. To excuse the expression, The Star preaches directly to the choir and that’s okay.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison