Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"The Nativity Story" again

HolyCoast reviews the new film, opening this weekend:
As one of their blogger-reviewers, I received an invitation from Grace Hill Media to attend a private screening of New Line Cinema's new movie, The Nativity Story. Two thumbs way, way up. I'll never look at a nativity set the same way again.

Over the years Hollywood has tried many times to make movies of Biblical stories, though there hasn't been a serious attempt for a long time. Most previous Hollywoodized versions of the Bible (for instance The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Robe, or King of Kings) tended to take the humanity out of Jesus or other Biblical characters. They always seemed to have this weird far-away look in their eyes and a funny glow around their head. The Nativity Story does a wonderful job of reminding the viewers that the people we read about in the Biblical story were real people living real lives who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The movie explores the dilemma they were in and how they likely had to deal with it.

The story begins with Mary's life as a young girl living and working in her family's home. In many Hollywood productions, Mary is played by a much older actress than the real Mary, who was probably only 15 or so years old. The Mary of this movie is a young girl, and Joseph a little older man. The casting seems right for the story. In fact, the casting throughout the movie is done well.

The movie is not just a dry retelling, but includes a lot of scenes of the day-to-day life in Israel at that point in history, and some humor as well. The Magi sort of become the comic foils of the movie, though their role is very serious as well. There is a lot of interesting information about their place in the nativity story, and the convergence of planets which gave rise to the Christmas star which the wise men followed.

We know that Joseph and Mary came up from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but I think we forget that it was a journey of nearly 100 miles, all of it on foot. The film gives a good representation of what that trip would have been like and the sights they might have seen along the way.

The movie takes an interesting approach in dealing with angels. The same angel appears to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, though I couldn't get away from the fact that he looked just like country singer Eddie Rabbit from the 70's. In addition, only one angel appears to the shepherds even though the scripture describes a "heavenly host" (not "the" heavenly host).

The only time the picture takes on a bit of an old time Hollywood mystical appearance is when the baby Jesus is born and the star(s) cast a beam of light directly into the stable. But even in that scene, I was struck by the sight of Mary giving birth with only Joseph and some animals in attendance. We forget what it must have been like for people in that day.

There are some moments which could have involved graphic violence, but thankfully the filmmakers chose to use implied violence and no blood rather than graphic scenes that would be much more difficult to watch. It's not Passion of the Christ, that's for sure.

Bottom line - go see it, and if possible go see it this opening weekend. Opening weekends are very important in the Hollywood world in helping convince them that this kind of film is worth making. A slow open could make movie companies hesitant to try something of this quality again.

Take your unchurched friends as well. I think this film could make a significant impact on the lives of nonbelievers. It's that well done.
Source: HolyCoast.com: The Nativity Story


  1. I"m glad to hear this one is as entertaining as it is instructive .. I can't wait to see it

  2. Just a quick note to let you know that I managed to go see the new movie "The Nativity Story" today here in Madison.

    All the publicity about it so far is true as far as I am concerned. It is definitely a first rate movie about the events leading up to the birth of Jesus.

    The characterizations of the different people involved aren't stale at all. In fact, there is even the right amount of humor thrown in for good measure.

    This movie definitely adds an amount of the human element to the birth story of Jesus that makes it seem all the more real.

    I would definitely give this movie a thumbs up.... way up!!!!

    I highly recommend that you go see this movie as soon as possible. You won't be sorry that you did.


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