“The Star,” which tells the Nativity Story through the eyes of animals who follow Mary and Joseph, is one of the best animated films of the year.
Bo is a first-century donkey full of spunk and energy – and he’s determined not to live his entire life inside a Nazareth grain mill.
“We were meant for something greater than this,” he says.
But … for what?
Perhaps that bright star in the sky – a star he gazes at each night – is a sign. Perhaps it’s even a sign for him!
Finally, Bo gets a big break. His barn mate helps him break out, with the owner in tow. And a chase through the streets of Nazareth ensues, until Bo loses his owner and winds up in the backyard of a young couple named Mary and Joseph. Maybe Bo really was meant for something great!
It’s all part of The Star (PG), an animated film that opens this weekend and tells the nativity story through the eyes of animals who follow Mary and Joseph and witness the birth of Christ. It stars Steven Yeun as Bo, Keegan-Michael Key as Dave the dove, Aidy Bryant as Ruth the sheep, Gina Rodriguez as Mary and Zachary Levi as Joseph. Tyler Perry (Cyrus the camel), Oprah Winfrey (Deborah the camel), Patricia Heaton (Edith the camel) and Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse) also have roles.
It is being released by the same company – AFFIRM Films – that released War Room and Courageous.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t like the trailers for The Star. But I really enjoyed the film. It’s one of the best animated films of the year – funny, entertaining and inspiring – and also faithful to Scripture (even if it does “fill in the blanks” with scenes not in the Bible). My movie-crazy children (ages 9 and 5) loved it.
The film follows Mary and Joseph and the animals as they try and make their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But Herod, wanting Jesus killed, sends out one of his henchman – a large dude carrying a spiked ball-and-chain flail – to find and harm the young couple (That character, of course, is not in Scripture).
Warning: minor spoilers!
Minimal. Herod’s henchman nearly catches Mary and Joseph a couple of times, but is always stopped by the animals, who are played as heroes. At one point he also grabs a person by the neck (It’s played for laughs).
None. We hear the word “poop” (in reference to something the dove does), the phrase “well-placed No. 2” (again, by the dove) and “butt” (referencing Bo).
Other Positive Elements
Mary and Joseph’s steadfast trust in God plays a prominent role.
“Just because God has a plan doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” Mary says.
A couple of mean animals repent.
Other Negative Elements
We see lessons on grace (when good animals save the mean animals from dying), God’s providential care of Jesus (when Bo and his friends stop the henchman) and trust in God (by Mary and Joseph). There’s also a scene of repentance.
What I Liked
The humor. It’s not easy to make me chuckle during a film, but I (and my children) laughed a lot. The movie also has one or two Pentatonix Christmas songs. It’s hard to beat that.
Obviously, I liked the movie’s message, too.
“People are going to remember this night,” one of the camels says following Christ’s birth. “What happened here around this manger will be celebrated for thousands of years. Families will come together and exchange presents and sing carols – and all to remember the grace of this moment that we are witnessing right now.”
What I Didn’t Like
The jokes continued until the credits rolled. It wasn’t irreverent, but the ending would have been more powerful if the manger scene was joke-free. Additionally, The Star – like nearly every modern-day depiction of the nativity – gets the timing of the wise men’s arrival wrong (They weren’t there the night of Jesus’ birth).
Thumbs Up … Or Down?
This one’s easy: thumbs up.
The Star is one of the most family-friendly movies I’ve seen, with only a minor caution for sensitive children. Otherwise, it’s appropriate for all ages.
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The Star is rated PG for some thematic elements.