James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
Completely bashing Sony Animation’s THE STAR kind of feels like punching down. The faith-based story of The Nativity has an off-beat charm to it that will only appeal to idealists and evangelicals. There have been recent faith-based films that made a splash at the box office such as MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN and GOD’S NOT DEAD, but many filmgoers haven’t been drinking the holy water.
However, I know what this film is attempting, and by and large, it succeeds with the warm embrace of “faith and friendship.” THE STAR is neither a film that is funny, emotional or captivating enough with its message to hold an adult audience member’s attention for very long. Frankly, I was shocked that Sony gave this movie a wide theatrical release; I like to think the studio has its heart in the right place, but more than likely they saw a market gap and capitalized.
THE STAR follows Mary — yes, the Virgin Mary (Gina Rodriguez) — and her donkey Bo (Steven Yeun) as they begin a quest to Bethlehem with Joesph (Zachary Levi) after Mary miraculously becomes pregnant.
Bo has a dream of becoming part of the King’s (Christopher Plummer) Royal Procession. He even prays when the going gets tough, which is admirable, yet the execution teeters on the side of saccharin. The film is filled with parables and anecdotes taken straight from the Biblical texts and appropriated for 2017. Even though THE STAR is cringe-worthy at times, with its depiction of immaculate conception and praying donkeys, it’s hard to knock the overall message of keeping faith in super dark times.
In an exceedingly weird series of events that cause animals to start imitating Christ and talking to God, it becomes too much. THE STAR is filled with teachable moments for children, and I can’t stress enough that this is exclusively for children. It turns into a boring and repetitive animated film that falls by the wayside in terms of ever becoming a classic.
There’s a huge cast of celebrity names that also includes Keegan Michael-Key as a wise-cracking bird named Dave and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’s Aidy Bryant as a derpy Lamb named Ruth. Not to mention, THE STAR can play the Oprah Winfrey card, who shows up as a Camel named Deborah. In addition, Tyler Perry, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson and Anthony Anderson lend their voices and probably collected an assumed mighty paycheck.
THE STAR isn’t a lazy film, as it takes a modern eye to a few situations from the nativity. (One of the wisemen comments on what the mystery of frankincense really entails.) But clunky jokes where the livestock misunderstand “The King of Jews” as “The King of Shoes,” cause the eyes to immediately glaze over. So, if you enjoy a slight post-modern take on Christianity, this is for you. Others need not apply.
- “STAR-OKE” Sing-along with Bo & Friends
- DANCE-ALONG to “Great Big World”
- Lyric Videos Including songs from Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, A Great Big World, Kirk Franklin