Quick, what’s the biggest pitfall of Christian movies? The deus ex machina, of course, which is always God. It wouldn’t be a Christian film otherwise if the problems weren’t solved by divine intervention. Unfortunately, this also means that most Christian movies don’t have proper, realistic tension. After all, if an invincible force is on the side of the protagonist(s), why would we even be worried that they would triumph?
So it’s a pleasant surprise that an animated Christian film circumvents this problem with a creative solution. The protagonists are the ones who save the day and solve the problem through their own efforts, but before they do, they always pray. It’s intentionally kept vague whether or not the plot developments are thanks to heavenly assistance, but there’s still a subtle hint that God is at work behind the scenes.
“The Star” also knows that audiences are familiar with the nativity tale, so it doesn’t spring any surprises there. It plays that story of Mary and Joseph straight. Instead, the tension comes from an unknown threat that’s eventually overcome by the sprawling cast of talking animal characters in the film. You’re truly and genuinely kept in suspense about whether the animals can defeat their antagonists, since it’s an original story that has never been told before. Thus, the plot is a refreshing one with an ending that isn’t already telegraphed in many different versions across the ages.
That’s not to say that there’s absolutely nothing divine that appears in the film. Angels appear in the film, and the titular star is shown to be a heavenly indicator of a momentous occasion. The birth of Christ is depicted as an epic event that befits, well, the Son of God. However, the angel isn’t the one who solves the problems in the film – that’s down to the protagonists of the film. And the stakes are pretty high if they fail, since there’s no prophecy or chosen one that guarantees their eventual victory.
Bo the donkey is also a cute, eager character with the biggest eyes you’ve ever seen. He has his own character arc, which is a gentle reminder of the Christian journey. It doesn’t bludgeon you with an evangelical message – rather, it gently relays the core tenets of Christianity, which are compassion and forgiveness. You never hear them explicitly stating these two values, but you see them in action instead. That’s what puts “The Star” far above other Christian films (since it shows instead of tells), and the fact that it’s a children’s movie makes it all the more impressive.
“The Star” does have some flaws though – an artificial disagreement between the main characters that serves as a climax. Unfortunately, this is rote and mechanical, and is resolved all too quickly and conveniently, just in time for the final showdown with everyone else. However, it’s easily overlooked, since you don’t really buy into the fact that there’s conflict amongst the main characters. Rather, you’re just waiting to see how they resolve what seems to be a hopeless situation.
It’s surprising, but “The Star” is probably one of the best Christian films to have come out in recent years. The fact that it features talking animals makes it all the more appealing to younger audience, and it fulfills its purpose as a religious movie – to spread the Gospel in a loving, unobtrusive, and honest way.
Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.
Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.
Secret ending? No, but the credits themselves depict an epilogue.
Running time: 86 minutes (~1.5 hours)
“The Star” is a 3D animated Christian adventure comedy based on the nativity story of Jesus.
“The Star” is directed by Timothy Reckart and written by Carlos Kotkin, with additional story credit for Simon Moore. It features the voice talents of Steven Yuen (Bo the donkey), Gina Rodriguez (Mary), Zachary Levi (Joseph), Keegan-Michael Key (Dave the dove), Aidy Bryant (Ruth the sheep), Kristin Chenoweth (Abby the mouse), Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse), Patricia Heaton (Edith the cow), Mariah Carey (Rebecca the hen), Tracy Morgan (Felix the camel), Tyler Perry (Cyrus the camel), Oprah Winfrey (Deborah the camel), Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat), Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog), Gabriel Iglesias (Rufus the dog), and Christopher Pummer (King Herod). It is rated PG.
“The Star” opens in cinemas:
– 30 November, 2017 (Singapore)
– 6 December, 2017 (Philippines)
This is an original article on marcusgohmarcusgoh.com
I’m a Singapore television scriptwriter who’s written for Lion Mums, Crimewatch, Police & Thief, and Incredible Tales. I’m also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find me on social media as Optimarcus and on my site.
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