TBT – Nativity (2009)

films, reviews, TBT

nativity-martin-freeman-christmas-movie-kids-cover5_star_rating_system_2_stars My Christmas film advent calendar has been full of some dicey films so far. You’d think I’d try and find the best ones to watch first, right? Nah. I don’t really like many Christmas films. Christmas films don’t seem to be held to the same standards as other films. There is an expectation that they are going to be cheesy and saccharine so nobody cares when there isn’t anything else to them. People are more willing to give a bad Christmas film a pass because it’s about Christmas. Not me. If a film isn’t well made or well written, I don’t give a shit if it’s full of snow and mulled wine. It’s not enough. Which is why I’m one of the seemingly few people who didn’t get all warm and fuzzy watching Nativity. In fact, it was on my list of Worst Christmas Films ever made. I just didn’t enjoy it. It made me cringe. The kind of film that thinks it’s funny just because it’s full of children.

I might be missing something but Nativity is a really stupid film. In the sense that there so much going on that it really doesn’t have any coherence. It’s an absolute mess. It could have been a very simple and effective film. But it goes off on so many random and unnecessary tangents. In the end, there are too many for it to handle. The trip to LA should have been cut for a start. Get rid of the ex-girlfriend. Just make a film about two schools competing to get the best review for their nativity. There was a lot of potential there but it had to take it further. And take it further in ways that don’t make much sense. For one thing, telling a rival that a Hollywood producer is coming to your school is a really weird thing to claim about your nativity. It’s also a really unbelievable thing for that rival to go along with. I can’t suspend my disbelief that much, I’m afraid.

Martin Freeman plays Paul Maddens. He had dreams of being an actor but, when that failed, he turned to teaching primary at St Bernadette’s. He has only ever been in charge of the annual nativity once before and it went horribly. This year, when he is forced back into the director’s chair, he is going up against an old friend turned enemy. His rival from the posh school down the road, Gordon Shakespeare, puts on a 5-star nativity every year. So Paul decides to tell him that Hollywood will be watching the St Bernadette’s nativity. Not as weird as it first seems as Paul’s ex-girlfriend, Jennifer, is a producer in LA. All Paul has to do is put on an original nativity, contact Jennifer, and convince her to come and watch. Easy.

There is a lot of the normal festive stuff going on here. It’s sweet and silly which is what most people like. Martin Freeman’s character even goes through his own A Christmas Carol style personality transplant. It’s a film that has its heart in the right place and it’s not exactly offensively bad. However, I can’t pretend that I’ve enjoyed any of my viewings of it. What I would have preferred is to have been able to see the whole of the Nativity musical. That’s where the humour was. A full-length viewing of that original piece would have been amazing. But I guess that would have required someone to have to compose more songs.

Because the rest of this film isn’t necessarily as funny as it thinks it is. Well, I guess it will appeal to young audience members thanks to Marc Wootton’s Mr Poppy. He’s a young-at-heart teaching assistant who tries to help but, inevitably, makes things difficult. He’s annoying, one-note, and not very interesting. But he’s loud and colourful so kids will love him. A lot of the humour here is over-the-top and silly, which will not appeal to certain views. Okay, won’t appeal to me. However, there are also moments of sweet and realistic humour. There are plenty of great moments that see Martin Freeman just interacting with the children which are great. If only those moments could have lasted longer. Instead, it wastes its time trying to have it all. There are plenty of scenes which go on for far too long and a very dodgy CGI helicopter. It just couldn’t help itself.

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