Next week the holiday season will begin.
The film industry has already kicked off its celebration with an assortment of holiday films that run the gamut. “A Bad Moms Christmas” is an R-rated box office blockbuster that tackles holiday stressors. Meanwhile, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” explores the life of Charles Dickens (played by Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey”). There’s even “Pottersville,” a decidedly weird take on a man who, while mistaken for Bigfoot, saves Christmas — sort of.
For those seeking a family-friendly film, Columbia Pictures offers “The Star.” It is a Christian-oriented, faith-based take on the Nativity story.
It also boasts megawatt Hollywood power, including production credits for Sony Pictures Animation and Jim Henson Company. The cast is headlined by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Kelly Clarkson, Tracy Morgan, Keegan-Michael Key and many more stars with recognizable voices.
“The Star” is a retelling of the story of the first Christmas, seen through the eyes of a disenchanted young donkey named “Bo,” voiced by Steven Yeun (best known from “The Walking Dead”). As Bo slogs away at a mill in a small village, he longs for a life of action an adventure in the bigger world.
After escaping life at the mill, Bo’s dreams come true. He follows the same star that guided in the shepherds and Wise Men in the biblical Christmas story. Along the way, Bo meets camels, stable animals and a dove named Dave (voiced by Key). The rag-tag band ends up accompanying Joseph (Zachary Levi) and Mary (Gina Rodriguez) on their hurried journey into Bethlehem. King Herod (Christopher Plummer) tops a list of bad guys and henchmen.
“The Star” carries strong themes of faith, family, justice and integrity. Reviews are mixed, with faith-based critics praising the film. Among the disconnects are Mary is blue-eyed and ostensibly white, while Joseph is rendered much younger than he likely was. (I also would be remiss — and perhaps inundated with emails — if I neglect to mention animated, talking animals tell the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.)
However, “The Star” should receive high marks for the fresh and nuanced way it tells a familiar story that’s been retold so many times. While the film’s basis is rooted in the biblical story of Christ’s birth, it has appeal beyond devout, regular churchgoers. With its comic relief and balanced storytelling, “The Star” could become a beloved holiday children’s classic.
“The Star” opens today in theaters nationwide. For details, check theater listings.