Director: Timothy Reckart
Writers: Carlos Kotkin (screenplay by), Simon Moore (story by)
Stars: Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, Aidy Bryant
Well it’s the season to be jolly, just in case you missed that fact, and being the living embodiment of the walking contradiction phrase. I decided to give Sony pictures, Christian animated film ‘The Star’ a viewing this week. I previously said in a podcast that I wouldn’t be watching this but what can I say, I’m a sucker for feel good Christmas films clearly.
This film has taken quite a pounding by critics following its frankly surprising release in theatres. A Christian centric animated film about the ‘holy’ origins of everyone’s favourite annual holiday seems like a straight to dvd affair. Timothy Reckart isn’t exactly a household name in the directing world either, having only really been involved in short films until this point. I have to say though, whilst it’s not going to be challenging Coco for best animation at the Oscars, I didn’t think it was excruciatingly bad. On the contrary, I actually enjoyed it in parts. There was most definitely a few forced comedic moments that fell flat, but in fairness I suspect I’m probably out of the target demographic of this film by a few (25) years.
Plot wise, it doesn’t get any simpler really. It pretty much follows the classic nativity story of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, King Herod and the three wise men. I hear what you’re probably saying, that’s a story that’s been done to death. You’re absolutely right. This one hasn’t though because it’s from the perspective of a lionhearted, little mill donkey. Said donkey, later christened Bo (Steven Yuen), has delusions of grandeur, seeking to join the royal caravan, whilst toiling away in a wheel house. He seeks a greater purpose in life and believes it has came when he sees the Star of Bethlehem. He tries and fails to escape at first but eventually succeeds many months later after a humorous chase scene up buildings, through chicken pens and markets.
He’s soon taken in by Mary (Gina Rodriguez), named and given a home much to the chagrin of a stressed Joseph (Zachary Levi), still trying to come to terms with his wife’s ‘immaculate conception’. Where Reckart and this film spices up the well trodden source material is with the introduction of two idiot hounds Rufus (Gabriel Iglesias) and Thaddeus (Ving Rhames), who accompany their towering master. A man tasked with killing Mary by King Herod. This gives our animal protagonists a purpose distinctly separate to their owners and propels the story all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem in unique fashion.
There were three main performances that stood out for me. Firstly, Steven Yeun as Bo was by far the standout; he imbued the character with well meaning sincerity, youthful energy and a real soul. Secondly, Keegan-Michael Key played the dumb as a brush, white dove called Dave and brought most of the laughs in the film. Finally, Aidy Bryan as Ruth the lamb/sheep rounded out the main animal trio with an impressive showing too. Outside those three, there was actually a very decent ensemble performance from a decently put together cast. Rodriguez as Mary, Levi as Joseph were decent too and Oprah was even in there.
Ultimately, I think the combination of a lack of interest from non-Christians, better competition, little to no promotion and lack of a real stellar cast has probably hurt this film a little. It’s very clearly aimed at the younger end of the age spectrum too, as it should be, certainly in regards to the comedy. But in the modern day and age of corporatism, it does reintroduce the holy meaning of Christmas to a new generation via a fun and light hearted adventure.
I’ve seen better and most definitely worse.