The Nativity Story

Covering the 2006 movie "The Nativity Story," about the story of Mary and Joseph
and their journey together as they bring the Messiah into the world.

~~One Family. One Journey. One child, who would change the world. Forever.~~

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Infuze Reviews "Nativity"

The Nativity Story
directed by Catherine Hardwicke
disappointing in every possible way

Perhaps the comparisons are unfair, but they are obviously going to be applied anyway. The Nativity Story is Hollywood's natural follow-up to The Passion of the Christ. After all, if the death made that much money, then the birth should be worth at least a high percentage of that.

But even more so, the birth of Jesus presents such a compelling narrative complete with endless possibilities for tension, drama and beautiful possibilities for storytelling in the battle of good vs. evil: the struggle of a teen peasant girl from Nazareth with insane claims as to the father of her child; the slaughter of all male children in Bethlehem; the rigors of the journey for Joseph and Mary or the magi. The entire event is scandalous from beginning to end.

Unfortunately for the viewer, there are no such elements to be found in The Nativity Story, which takes its cue more from the cheesy light-up display a few houses down from my own than it does from the Biblical text. The movie lacks emotion of any kind, keeps the story at a safe, family-friendly level, and is even incorrect in major details of the narrative.

For example, there are three wise men here and all are present at the manger scene at the time of Jesus' birth. The idea of there being three magi is not found in any of the gospels and it's only perpetuated by myth (most likely because of the three gifts listed). The magi also didn't visit Jesus until most likely around his second birthday. Such anomalies were not present in The Passion because it had a director dead-set on being true to detail, no matter how the audience would take it.

Director Catherine Hardwicke had different things in mind apparently, as the obvious idea was to create a watered-down holiday movie that would appeal to the masses. But to do so strips the story of its power. Each scene is devoid of believable levels of fear, sorrow, joy or excitement, even though the scenes we know so well should be filled with extreme levels of each of those.

What makes it all even more amazing is that it shouldn't have turned out this way. Hardwicke is best known as the director behind the gritty Thirteen and both Keisha Castle-Hughes and Shohreh Aghdashloo - Mary and Elizabeth respectively - have ventured into Oscar territory. It seemed that Mary would truly be afraid and that drama would be intense. Instead, it's given the same sheer and gloss that most obvious Christian products are known for.

The Passion was honest and raw and, because of this, it connected on a level that few films can lay claim to. The Nativity Story possessed the same ability but refused to let the story tell itself, instead shooting for 'warm' and 'fuzzy' rather than 'awesome' and 'inspiring.'

It is not the worst film I have seen this year. Nor was it a complete waste of time. But The Nativity Story is easily the most disappointing movie of 2006.


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