The Star (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
As harmless a movie as you can get, The Star takes a faith-based story of the first Christmas and modernizes it to today's audiences.
Definitely a movie that families can and likely will enjoy together.
Blends humor with canonical storytelling, and incorporating modern remakes of traditional Christmas music and contemporary dialogue and jokes, The Star will appeal to a wide range of viewers.
Why does this movie exist actually? This isn't something we need, per se.
For those who have a very limited tolerance for a movie like this, the contemporary overtones of the film will make it appear to be trying waaaayyyyyy too hard to appeal to younger audiences.
You don't believe in Christmas, choose to not celebrate the holiday, or detest any and all stories about the Christmas season.
A story recited every year, in and around the Christmas holiday season, The Star brings the story of the Nativity to the big screen as an animated motion picture with talking animals, hip cover versions of traditional Christmas carols and music, and jokes, witty one-liners, and the expected message of compassion, love, and acceptance, common with the story of the Birth of Jesus.
In all honesty, unless you just find yourself forced to be a contrarian, or have literal black coal for a heart, The Star is not a movie worthy of one's disdain or flat out hatred. Sure, the jokes wear a little bit thin and, at times, the movie crowbars in some awkward comedy and musical beats which fall flat, but this is the very definition of a harmless movie experience. Yelling at and about this is akin to scolding a child for being caring and giving, or getting upset that a youth group at a local church is raising money to donate toys to children in need.
Directed by Timothy Reckart, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, whose brilliant 2012 animated short nominee Head Over Heels is worth finding, The Star makes the most of its scant $20 million budget. Opening in Nazareth, with a title card indicating it is 9 months, B.C., the virgin Mary (Gina Rodriguez) is approached by an angel and learns that she will be giving birth to the Messiah. A star appears in the sky and a mouse (Kristen Chenoweth), overhearing the news, rushes out and informs the animals who live near Mary of what has just been decreed.
Waiting until their wedding day, Mary informs Joseph (Zachary Levi) of the news, and the movie then largely gives way to talking animals. The main animal character is Boaz, or Bo, the donkey (Stephen Yuen), and among the various other chattering animals - a cow (Patricia Heaton), a goat (Anthony Anderson), a sheep (Aidy Bryant), a wise-cracking dove who spends most of his time with Bo (Keegan-Michael Key), and three wisecracking camels (Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan).
The cast is populated with big names, the largest of which are often relegated to cameos. The soundtrack gives us Christian and Gospel artists such as Casting Crowns and Kirk Franklin alongside contemporary pop stars like Kelly Clarkson, Fifth Harmony, Pentatonix, and Mariah Carey, who debuts a new original song, "The Star", custom-made for Oscar balloting.
Though the animating of spoken dialogue looks a little subpar, Reckart and his team of animators seemingly exhausted every last penny, crafting a rather impressive looking film. Engaging, with a rich color palette and some terrific production design, we never lose interest with a film this appealing to look at.
Truthfully, The Star doesn't want for much, simply wanting to entertain its audience. And sure, maybe preach to the choir a little bit and reach those less devout, but this is a film right in the wheelhouse of the youngest among us. Reckart and screenwriter Carlos Kotkin seemingly could strike a chord with young audiences, providing viewers a chance to celebrate the Nativity with characters who look like they could just as easily become a toy line or characters in a recurring series of The Star sequels or animated television specials.
Maybe I'm being too kind to the film. Quite honestly though, The Star has its heart in the right place, offering more of a spiritual re-telling of the Nativity than an evangelizing one. All this movie hopes to do is entertain, and if you understand the approach and accept the tone, The Star will shine just bright enough to keep you smiling.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Aidy Bryant, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Anthony Anderson, Kristen Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Delilah, Joel Osteen, Mariah Carey.
Director: Timothy Reckart
Written by: Carlos Kotkin (screenplay); Carlos Kotkin, Simon Moore (story)
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing