One Wise Man and a Fool
Some people were born to be on stage others weren't, I was one of those others which leads me to one of my traumatic childhood memories, appearing in the school nativity play. I only did it once, the experience of being a wise man was enough to put me off trying to be an actor altogether but the memories still haunt me. So I come to Brit flick "Nativity!" a movie which not only manages to bring the chaos of a school Nativity play to the screen but then embellishes it with a modern twist. It means that on one hand "Nativity!" is authentic yet on the other comically daft but then delivers one of the most heart warming, joyous endings you will ever watch.
School teacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman - Hot Fuzz) dislikes Christmas as it signifies two bad memories, getting a bad review from a local newspaper critic when he directed the school Nativity play and his girlfriend Jennifer (Ashley Jensen) leaving him to go to Hollywood. But now 5 years on from those bad memories and Paul finds himself saddled with doing the school Nativity play and also saddled with classroom assistant Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton - Confetti), an over enthusiastic fool who may have the body of a grown man but has the mind of a child. And it is thanks to Mr. Poppy that Paul finds himself in trouble when everyone thinks he has been in contact with Jennifer and she is returning with a Hollywood film crew to make a movie out of their nativity play.
For what is really quite a daft movie there is also something quite clever about "Nativity!". It's the mix of real with fantasy so in one scene we see young children practicing singing and basically being poor but then suddenly it comes together and it sounds beautiful. The same when we go from a typical classroom scene as Mr. Maddens tries to keep order to the infantile Mr. Poppy causing chaos running around pretending to be a jet plane. It is stupid but clever as it even manages to reference modern day life with talent show style auditions.
And that in a way is the thing about "Nativity!" because the actual storyline of Mr. Maddens being not only forced in to directing the school Nativity play but also dealing with the confusion over Hollywood is quite weak. Yet because there is so much humour packed into the movie from kids break dancing to Mr. Poppy being over enthusiastic that the weakness of the storyline never once matters. Even the whole romantic subplot about Mr. Maddens and his ex Jennifer doesn't really add much to the story other than a less than surprising happy ever after ending.
And it is the ending which will have you reaching for the Kleenex because it is an absolute triumph. Yes we have a feel good, touching, heart warming and sentimental climax but I defy anyone not to enjoy the mix of old school Nativity play drama with over the top performances which mirror talent shows. It is simply wonderful and it is this more than any other part of the movie which will lead to it becoming an a Christmas favourite because in those last few scenes it delivers everything you want from a modern Christmas movie.
Now whilst you have to say every child is brilliant and steal many a scene from the adults "Nativity!" rests firmly on the shoulders of two actors, Martin Freeman as Mr. Maddens and Marc Wootton as Mr. Poppy. Because the characters are chalk and cheese there is some wonderful comedy going on as the almost grinch like Maddens is exasperated by the infantile Poppy. Yet whilst it is predictable that Poppy's innocent enthusiasm starts wearing off on Maddens the way we watch Freeman change the character slightly is wonderful as well as touching.
What this all boils down to is that "Nativity!" is a daft Christmas movie but it is one which works thanks to the performances of Martin Freeman and Marc Wootton and also the mix of old style school Nativity drama combined with modern talent show style elements. And I defy anyone not to get carried away by the touching, heart-warming ending which is simply a triumph.
Tags: Christmas Movies