Most movies based on the Bible have limited appeal beyond the faithful, because the stories are ordinarily dry adaptations basically recounting popular parables in straightforward fashion. A novel exception to the rule is The Star, an animated reimagining of the Nativity.
What makes the production unique is that it unfolds from the point of view of a gang of anthropomorphic barnyard animals that apparently played a critical role in the birth of the Christ child. Who knew? Bo the donkey (Steve Yeun) is the ringleader of the meandering menagerie ultimately huddled around the manger in the iconic creche tableau everybody knows.
Furthermore, instead of serving up a purely pious plotline, this relatively-lighthearted revision features a lot of humorous asides, much of it coming courtesy of a trash-talking camel played by the irrepressible Tracy Morgan ("Three wise men don't get lost!"). Betwixt and between all the wisecracks, we witness the assorted ordeals of Joseph the Carpenter (Zachary Levi) and the Virgin Mary (Gina Rodriguez) as they negotiate the perilous gauntlet from Nazareth to a sacred stable in Bethlehem, in accordance with New Testament lore.
Think of The Star as an irreverent cross of “Shrek” (2001) and “The Nativity Story” (2006). The movie marks the noteworthy directorial debut of Timothy Reckhart, who recruited a big name cast that included Oprah, Tyler Perry, Mariah Carey, Ving Rhames, Anthony Anderson and televangelist Joel Osteen.
To make sure you get the Christmas spirit, the score has been stocked with a profusion of holiday classics, starting with the familiar strains of "Carol of the Bells." If the name doesn't ring a bell, it's the catchy tune now better known as the "Give-a-Give-a-Give-a-Garmin" jingle from the GPS commercial. Also on the soundtrack are such standards as “O Holy Night,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “We Three Kings” and “Ave Maria.”
The Nativity revisited as a kiddie cartoon adventure guaranteed to enthrall tykes of any race, color or creed.
Very Good ★★★
Rated PG for mature themes
Running time: 86 minutes
Production Studio: Affirm Films / The Jim Henson Company / Walden media
Distributor: Sony Pictures Animation