The Star: A Christmas Movie From the Animals Perspective!
Reviewed by John Mulderig
A seasonal treat suitable for all but the tiniest, The Star is a delightful animated version of the Christmas story told from the perspective of some of the animals present in the manger. It opens in South Africa on November 17.
Director Timothy Reckart and screenwriter Carlos Kotkin skillfully balance religious themes such as the importance of prayer and the value of forgiveness with a more secular message about pursuing your dreams. They also throw in a healthy dose of straightforward entertainment.
They work their way into the biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth through the adventures of a gentle donkey from Nazareth named Bo (voice of Steven Yeun). Curious about the world beyond the grain mill where he carries out his monotonous work, Bo yearns to exchange his life of drudgery for the fame and prestige to be gained by joining the storied royal caravan.
Bo and Dave
Bo’s best friend, a lively dove by the name of Dave (Keegan-Michael Key), shares this ambition. And the pals get their chance to fulfil their aspirations when Bo successfully escapes his confinement, though he injures his leg in the process.
Bo is tended to by no one less than Mary (Gina Rodriguez), after which his quest takes a detour. Despite the mild disapproval of Joseph (Zachary Levi), Mary adopts her patient as a pet. Bo, in turn, becomes dedicated to protecting the parents-to-be, as they journey to Bethlehem, from the murderous scheming of King Herod (Christopher Plummer).
Bo is aided in this endeavour not only by Dave but, eventually, by an affectionate sheep called Ruth (Aidy Bryant) whom the pals encounter along the way. Together, the critters do what they can to thwart the unspeaking hulk of a soldier Herod has dispatched to slaughter the Holy Family and the pair of ferocious-seeming but not entirely evil dogs, Thaddeus (Ving Rhames) and Rufus (Gabriel Iglesias), accompanying him.
As a range of characters rely on prayer for guidance and strive to do God’s will, Mary and Joseph present the image of a well-balanced marriage by being strong for each other in moments of trial or doubt.
Faithful to the Gospels
Though some liberties are taken with the scriptural account — Catholic viewers will especially notice the absence of the phrase “Hail, Mary” from the Annunciation scene — overall, the script is faithful to the Gospels.
The inclusion of lighthearted humour, moreover, does nothing to detract from the appropriately reverent treatment of the movie’s sacred subject matter.
Though a couple of silly guano-themed lines designed to make little ones giggle might have been dispensed with, overall this is a very solid choice for family viewing. All the more so, as it may serve as the starting point for a discussion of faith in general and of the Incarnation in particular. (CNS)