Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
Is Jesus Christ a MAN, or is he GOD? Answer (for young people)
What is the INCARNATION? Answer
What are the most common MISCONCEPTIONS about Jesus Christ’s birth?
See our COLORING PAGES ABOUT CHRISTMAS
What was the STAR of Bethlehem? Answer
REVIEWS of “Christmas” movies
Steven Yeun … Bo the Donkey (voice)
Kristin Chenoweth … Abby the Mouse (voice)
Zachary Levi … Joseph (voice)
Gina Rodriguez … Mary (voice)
Tyler Perry … Cyrus the camel (voice)
Christopher Plummer … King Herod (voice)
Keegan-Michael Key … Dave the Dove (voice)
Patricia Heaton … Edith the Cow (voice)
Kris Kristofferson … Old Donkey (voice)
Ving Rhames … Thaddeus the Dog (voice)
Anthony Anderson … Zach the Goat (voice)
Mariah Carey … Rebecca the Hen (voice)
Oprah Winfrey … Deborah the Camel (voice)
Kelly Clarkson … Leah the Horse (voice)
Gabriel Iglesias … Rufus the Dog (voice)
Tracy Morgan … Felix the camel (voice)
Aidy Bryant … Ruth the Sheep (voice)
Phil Morris … Miller (voice)
Delilah … Elizabeth (voice)
Joel McCrary … Zechariah (voice)
William Townsend … Goat (voice)
Joel Osteen … Caspar (voice)
Monique Edwards … Additional Voices
|Director||Timothy Reckart—Academy Award® nominated writer/director “Head Over Heels” (2001), “Anomalisa” (2016—Lead Animator)|
DeVon Franklin (Progressive Liberal Seventh-day Adventist preacher, author, motivational speaker)
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|Distributor||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
“The story of the first Christmas / It takes many tails to tell the greatest story ever”
“The Star” retells the Christmas Story from the perspective of the animals involved. In Nazareth, a mill donkey named Bo (voiced by Steven Yeun) dreams of being a part of the royal caravan. Meanwhile, Mary (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) is visited by an angel that tells her she will be the mother of the Messiah. This miraculous situation is also witnessed by a mouse named Abby (voiced by Kristin Chenoweth).
One day, Bo breaks out of the mill and decides to head out with his friend, Dave the Dove (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key). However, he’s also mysteriously intrigued by a bright star that’s appeared in the sky.
Trying to escape from the mill owner, Bo seeks refuge in a yard belonging to Mary and Joseph (voiced by Zachary Levi), where he quickly befriends Mary. After this, a census is issued and the couple begins their trek to Bethlehem. Joseph tries to get Bo to pull their cart, but is unsuccessful. So the couple decides to leave him behind.
In the meantime, word of a new King being born and the star in the sky spreads for miles. Three kings tell King Herod (voiced by Christopher Plummer) about what the star could mean. In response, Herod sends out a guard and two guard dogs to try and get rid of Mary and the unborn child. Will Mary and Joseph reach Bethlehem? Will Bo and the other animals find out about Herod’s plot and do something about it?
Even though it’s not the strongest effort as far as animation quality is concerned (a few of the animals could have used a little more fine-tuning), the overall animation is still fairly solid considering the budget was not as lavish as most Hollywood animated productions (“The Star” is estimated at $18-million for production/distribution). The all-star voice cast does a nice job, with the stand-outs being Key, Aidy Bryant (as Ruth the Sheep), Chenoweth and Levi. The wise men’s three camels (voiced by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Tracy Morgan) turn out to be a solid comedic trio.
The overall story does a really nice job retelling the story without disrespecting the source material or the main purpose of the story. The Birth of Jesus and the events leading up to it remain the same for the most part (despite some creative license in the animals’ perspective, the only actual event from Scripture that is changed slightly is in how Mary and Joseph find the stable).
The film is quite funny, with many laugh-out-loud moments (I think the parents laughed more than the kids at the showing I attended). There are several clever references to Biblical characters and events that careful listeners should be able to pick up on. It moves at a solid pace that remains entertaining through its humor, witty dialog and suspenseful moments.
The villains of the movie start out somewhat stereotypical, but go through a surprising redemption at the end that made me think about them differently. This decision adds a little more emotional depth.
On the downside, there are a couple of moments where the humor and silliness goes a little over-the-top. Also, while the presence of Christmas hymns and songs does work appropriately at times, there are at least a couple of instances where the placing of the songs is somewhat odd. For instance, the decision to have “Mary Did You Know?” play when Joseph is trying to find help to fix his cart seems a little out of place.
The idea and purpose behind “the star of Bethlehem” represents the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. Everyone feels like that they need to “follow the star,” as it might be important. Indeed, the coming of the birth of Jesus brings characters from different walks of life together.
Mary and Joseph go through several moments on their journey where they are unsure of what will happen. But, Mary says, “Just because God has a plan doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.” That is a true statement. Ultimately, God knows what’s best, and cares for us. Proverbs 3:5-6 brings to mind the fact that we need to trust God over our own understanding.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Joseph is a loving, dedicated husband who will help Mary at every step of the way. In the meantime, in the midst of changing decisions, Dave proves to be a loyal friend to Bo. He sticks around regardless of what decision he makes about the royal caravan. In the meantime, Bo sacrifices his dreams to help save Mary.
Language: At one moment, Bo seems to be calling his miller owner some possibly harsh words (we only hear these things from the owner’s perspective, in that case, a bunch of “hee-haws”). Dave says, “Nazareth can kiss my white tail feathers goodbye” and that something might “tick people off.” Someone says “gosh” once. Someone is called a “bully”.
Adult Content: Nothing inappropriate. There is implied hesitancy in Joseph about Mary becoming pregnant out of the blue (with the Son of God), but it’s not discussed in a blatant way.
Violence: It is clear that a henchman and two dogs are sent out to try and take out Mary and the baby. In a few occasions, we see him unsheathe his sharp, intimidating-looking knife. He also grabs a couple of characters by the neck and throws them aside. Bo causes some slapstick mayhem here and there. He knocks over a couple of people from high places, and spills a bucket of paint on someone. Abby is swallowed up by one of the guard dogs, then spit back out. Bo kicks a dog. Someone falls from a high precipice and lands on another character. A character is knocked into a well. Two animals are shown hanging by a big chain. Another character falls off a cliff. One character is whacked in the face twice by a wood beam. Dave warns a bunch of chickens to “run!” after seeing a family eat chicken for lunch. Herod briefly mentions “killing” all of the babies in a village, a reference to an event that occurs in Scripture.
Other: Dave makes a couple of light bathroom jokes (“I’m going to go find someone to poop on!” “Plant a well-placed No. 2 somewhere”).
Like “Risen” from last year, “The Star” attempts to retell a famous Bible story we’ve all heard many times, from a fresh perspective. And even though some creative liberties are taken, the overall result sticks pretty faithfully to the Biblical narrative. Also, the movie is not just a flick aimed strictly at kids. The film provides good-natured and clean laughs for both kids and adults. And the film refreshingly restrains the over-the-top silliness that oftentimes characterizes many “kids’ movies.”
At a breezy 86 minutes, “The Star” remains consistently entertaining and engaging. It also is nearly devoid of problematic content (the only possible issues here are a couple of very mild bathroom jokes and some perilous moments). In fact, the movie very well could have been rated G (I can name a few G-rated movies that are darker and scarier than this).
“The Star” doesn’t rival the best animated efforts, but it is still a pretty good one. And, its generally respectful, reverential, and clever presentation of the first Christmas makes it a better choice for families this season.
Unlike any other baby, the one born that night in Bethlehem was unique in all of history. He was not created by a human father and mother. He had a heavenly pre-existence (John 1:1-3, 14). He is God, the Son—Creator of the universe (Philippians 2:5-11). This is why Christmas is called the incarnation, a word which means “in the flesh.” In the birth of Jesus, the eternal, all-powerful and all-knowing Creator came to earth in the flesh.
Why would God do such a thing? Answer
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.