Monday, December 04, 2006

The Nativity Story


The life of Jesus has been dubbed "The Greatest Story Ever Told." The only mystery in Catherine Hardwicke's "The Nativity Story," however, is how she managed to turn his birth into such a listless affair.

I should have seen the signs, I guess. Reviewers who I normally trust faintly praised it with words like "respectful" and "earnest" which, in this case, turned out to be code for boring.

Which is all the more amazing given what Hardwicke had to work with. A rightfully paranoid King Herod who, hearing the prophesy of a "King of Kings" who will rise up for the people, orders up a killing spree. Meanwhile, of course, young Mary, after having a vision, finds herself impregnated with the son of God. She and hubby Joseph are forced to make the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for Herod's census, and, well ... you know the rest.

Whether you choose to believe it or not (which, by the way, I do), it certainly sounds like a great story, doesn't it? So what was missing from Hardwicke's take? Almost throughout, it's missing any sense of drama, urgency or peril. It's as if, wanting to be the anti-Mel, she deliberately sucked all this right out of it.

And, what's most debilitating, is there is very little sense of wonder. Sure, it's there when we get to the big birth, but in this flick, which only clocks in at one hour and 45 minutes, it's just a long, long time coming.

And the acting? Given the raves for Keisha Castle-Hughes and the rest of the cast, I was expecting much more. With the exception of a clearly inspired Shohreh Aghdashloo as Mary's cousin Elizabeth, they all seem to wander through the flick in a daze, delivering their dialogue as woodenly as you can imagine. Even Herod, played by the usually reliable Ciaran Hinds, lacks any of the lust for power that should have driven him to a truly compelling performance.

Could it have been worse? Sure. At the opposite end from "respectful" I guess you could have had three cute little singing mice as the Three Wise Men, and Mary and Joseph could have been played by Kathy Griffin and Robin Williams. It pains me to say that that still might have been better than what Ms. Hardwicke churned out here.

Judging by the box office take, I'm far from alone in this assessment. It managed to take in a mere $8 million, even worse than studio New Line's most conservative prediction of $10 million.

So, is it impossible to make an entertaining movie about the bible? Certainly not. It's been done before, and I'm keeping the faith that it can be done many times again. Just not with this instantly forgettable flick.

14 comments:

james higham said...

That's a great disappointment. I'll send people over here to read this.

Reel Fanatic said...

I hope I wasn't too harsh, James, but it really was a giant letdown to me ...

Lori said...

Aw...that's a shame. But I kinda figured it was going to be more like a big-budgeted Hallmark Channel kinda thing. I can't imagine any movie depicting the events better than in Zeffirelli's 'Jesus of Nazareth,' the definitive New Testament-in-a-movie movie (well, miniseries actually).

Anonymous said...

I'm excited to see a Jerry Bruckheimer produced Noah's Arc, or David and Goliath! Why do think this movie wasn't bigger, I thought for sure, it would be a bit hit with religious groups. Maybe it's cause it didn't star Kirk Cameron!?

Lewis Cash said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog, how did you stumble upon it? I have continual readership of about 4 people, so it was nice to hear another vioce in my little web world.

I'm not at all shocked by how boring The Nativity Story was. I always perfer the book to the movie!

Reel Fanatic said...

I have some down time at work, Nole, which for some odd reason I like to spend reading blogs about movies

Lori, I have to admit I haven't seen Zeffirelli's version ... If I can get it, that will be remedied soon!

Linda said...

I liked this film. I had no expectations, and I thought the familiar story was well told. It's not wiz-bang, but that's OK. Maybe I was in the right mood. I especially liked Joseph, the wise men and the music. Not a landmark film, but it was a nice experience for me in the first week of Advent.

Anonymous said...

[color=#58a]
Hi
Great site. Keep doing.
Very much interesting site. Here a lot of helpful information.

Check this:
[url=http://meridia-usa.blogspot.com/]MERIDIA[/url] meridia-usa.blogspot.com meridia

Ciao![/color]

Reel Fanatic said...

Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood, Linda, but I expect to be moved by religious movies, and this one just didn't do that for me .. I'm glad you had a better experience with it

Lori said...

LOL Keith...yeah, y'know...if you have like a spare 12 hours to spend. No seriously, I haven't seen it in many moons, but I remember it was pretty good. Very gritty, and done many years before Mad Mel's version.

Anonymous said...

It's sad to hear that the movie is dull. I am not Christian, but even I have to admit that the birth of Jesus does make for a good story. At any rate, I would think it would deserve better than a film that is boring.

Anonymous said...

The previews didn't really make me want to go see this movie. Also, as a Christian, somehow it made me feel like I was being directly marketed to, and I didn't like that (for some reason). I don't like being a demographic.

Blake

Reel Fanatic said...

Unfortunately, Everglades, that's how Hollywood is going to view Christians for the foreseeable future I'm afraid

Anonymous said...

Too bad... Story is sooo cool (in my mind)...