movie film review | chris tookey


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  Nativity! Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
4.60 /10
Martin Freeman, Jason Watkins, Marc Wootton
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Directed by: Debbie Isitt
Written by: Debbie Isitt

Released: 2009
Genre: SO BAD
Origin: UK
Colour: C
Length: 105

So twee, it must be Christmas.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Debbie Isitt’s latest improvised comedy, following in the faltering footsteps of her Nasty Neighbours (2000) and Confetti (2006), is so atrocious that it might just find an audience. It has an appalling, infectious energy, like the dreadful but perversely entertaining John and Edward on The X Factor.

If you thrilled in the first series of Britain’s Got Talent to those two bratty children who called themselves the Cheeky Monkeys, here they are again - and there are even more of them. I’ve never seen so many flashing eyes and grinning milk teeth. It’s like an entire cast of Bonnie Langford’s godchildren.

There are token adults. Martin Freeman (pictured left with Ashley Jensen) stars, with his usual air of a man who has recently been slapped around the face with a diseased haddock, as a hapless primary schoolteacher commandeered by his headmistress (Pam Ferris) to put on a nativity play, despite the fact that his last effort attracted a minus 2-star review from the bitchy critic of the Coventry Evening Telegraph (Alan Carr), and the improbable panning headline “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”

Yes, the film inhabits an alternative universe where local newspaper critics pen savage reviews of school nativity plays. This is only one of many hints that the movie is not social realism. Other clues include the notion that a teacher could abduct two children to America for several days without criminal repercussions. We’re also asked to believe that health and safety would allow a small child to perform a “death slide” from the top of Coventry Cathedral. And who would have thought that in the modern climate of child protection that a headmistress could engineer the appointment as a classroom assistant of her obviously half-witted nephew (Marc Wooton, uniquely annoying) who lives in a caravan with what can only be described as a goat?

Judged by any normal critical criteria, this film deserves to be put out of its misery with a humane killer. It’s horribly lit. It’s coarsely acted. The plot staggers like an overladen, three-legged donkey through quagmires of illogicality and expires in a seemingly endless, completely ghastly, pop nativity play, with sugary songs co-written by Ms Isitt and an accomplice called Nicky Ager, who’s also the film’s editor and should have edited himself a lot more severely, preferably with an axe. Lyrics include such pithy observations as “Things are really cool in Nazareth”.

The whole thing’s mindless bordering on moronic; but that’s its charm. Martin Freeman always has warmth, and so does the movie. The small children are, despite their best efforts to be obnoxious, curiously touching; and the film’s very naivety will assure it an audience among those who do not expect, or even desire, sophistication in their Christmas fun. This is, in other words, so deliriously corny that I can imagine it becoming the unlikeliest hit of the year.

As Simon Cowell might say, while rolling his eyes heavenwards, it has likeability.

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