Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation/The Jim Henson Company/Franklin Entertainment/Walden Media/Affirm Films
Directed by Timothy Reckart
Produced by Jenni Magee Cook
Screenplay by Carlos Kotkin
Story by Carlos Kotkin/Simon Moore
Way back the 1970s I worked with a guy who had a favorite epithet he would give voice to when he was mad, upset or aggravated; “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” And when he was really honked off he added to it; “Jesus, Mary, Joseph and The Holy Jackass!” referring to the donkey Mary rode into Bethlehem. I mention this because I haven’t thought of that guy in years. But he came to mind while I was watching THE STAR because it struck me halfway through the movie that the protagonist of the movie is indeed The Holy Jackass.
Boaz (Steven Yeun) is a donkey whose future is bleak. Along with his father (Kris Kristofferson) they are yoked to a miller’s wheel where they spend their days going around and around in an endless circle. Boaz dreams of escape and joining The King’s Caravan, a travelling procession that goes from town to town. Boaz’s dreams of escape are encouraged by his only friend, a cheerful dove named Dave (Keegan-Michael Key) who tells Boaz tales of the outside world. With the help of his father and Dave, Boaz does indeed escape but injures one of hind legs. But he’s fortunate in that he finds shelter in the home of a newly wedded couple; Mary and Joseph. Yep, that Mary and Joseph.
Mary takes to the donkey right away, binding up his injured leg and making a bed for him in their home for him to rest and recover. Joseph isn’t as friendly toward Boaz. Mainly because he’s got bigger problems, namely being informed by Mary that he’s got to help her raise The Son of God. The scene where Mary tells him about her visitation from an angel telling her she is to give birth to The Messiah is both funny and touching. And it helps that Mary and Joseph are depicted here as a young couple, just starting out in life, unsure about a lot of things. Joseph himself is kinda a bumbler but his heart and just as importantly, his faith is in the right place.
King Herod (Christopher Plummer) gets word of the impending birth of The Messiah and dispatches his best soldier to find the baby and kill him, using his two vicious attack dogs (Ving Rhames and Gabriel Iglesias) to track Mary down. Boaz along with Dave and other animals who are aware that Mary is going to give birth to The Messiah band together to protect her and insure that Jesus Christ is indeed born.
Make no mistake: we’re not talking about innovative filmmaking here. THE STAR isn’t trying to say anything new about the birth of Jesus that we don’t already know other than telling it from the standpoint of the animals involved. Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Tracy Morgan are especially humorous as the camels ridden by the Three Wise Men. Kristen Chenoweth notably tickled me as the voice of Abby, the mouse who witnesses the angel’s visit to Mary and then proceeds to travel around the land, telling the tale in breathless, hyperactive fashion. And on the soundtrack, we’ve got dependable artists such as Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and Pentatonix singing traditional Christmas songs. Mariah Carey contributes the title song “The Star” and while it’s pretty good I don’t think it’s going to replace “All I Want For Christmas is You” as THE Mariah Carey Christmas song.
I appreciate the fact that at around this time of year movie studios realize that not everybody wants to see action movies or raunchy comedies or superhero movies and THE STAR is perfectly acceptable family fare that doesn’t beat you over the head with its message while it provides you with entertainment. While I don’t think it’s going to become a holiday classic it is full of charm and heart and so, if you’re looking for entertainment to take the kids to see or even if you’re an adult who wants to see a faith based animated movie done with respect and humor, I do heartily recommend THE STAR.