“The Star” stars Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. Released on November 17, 2017, the film showcases the story of the first Christmas from the animals’ perspective.
The film features the directorial debut of Timothy Reckart, who is known for directing the 2012 animated short film, Head over Heels. It is based on the Nativity of Jesus. The unforgettable story of Jesus’ birth has been told throughout many generations, mostly in churches. Now, the story is being told once again, but this time, from the point of view of talking animals. Sony Pictures Animation, the animation company behind this film, is just recovering from a massive critical beatdown due to the release of The Emoji Movie, which I thought was just…OK. So now the company is hoping that their animated retelling of the very first Christmas would hopefully turn things around. I haven’t been watching that many films that are Christian-related, to be honest, mostly because that it’s a tricky subject for me to talk about since everyone has different beliefs. That’s basically one of my personal concerns going into this film. While I felt relieved that there isn’t much to talk about in terms of its subject matter, I have yet to answer this important question: Is it suitable for kids?
If you’re one of the people who heard about the Nativity of Jesus numerous times, you’re not going to find anything new in this version. Except the fact that it has talking animals and it shows their own experiences with the birth of Jesus. Aside from that, the story is “been there, done that”. The way they told this story, from my personal perspective, is one of those things where they have its share of pros and cons. On the one hand, the level of storytelling is safe enough for the little ones to enjoy without having to worry about the frightening stuff. On the other hand, it does get to the point where the film held itself back from any sense of emotional depth that makes the story and the characters memorable. It’s the most kid-friendly version of the Nativity of Jesus ever told on screen, but again, it lacks the special flavor that’ll lure in adults as well. The humor in this film doesn’t help that much either. I wouldn’t say that it’s irritating compared to the other Sony Pictures Animation films, but I would say that the humor didn’t do that much for me, no matter how less obnoxious it was. There were a couple of moments that’s worth a chuckle or two, but that’s about it. Even the three camels (who were voiced by Morgan, Perry and Winfrey, respectively) provided some of the weakest jokes ever to be put in an animated film. On the plus side, the film has a terrific voice cast, ranging from Steven Yeun as Bo the donkey to Oprah Winfrey as one of the camels. The animation in the film was produced by Cinesite, the studio who is responsible for creating visual effects for films like Harry Potter and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. While it doesn’t contain a lot of slapstick moments like most Sony Pictures Animation films have, the film provided some tender and colorful pieces of animation that fully resembles the timeline where the story took place.
Overall, “The Star” can be a bit too safe and generic for some, but it definitely has its cute little moments that make it one of the most suitable and kid-friendly Christmas movies to date. It’s not the best version of the story in general, but I believe that this is the version that deserves to be seen in Sunday schools. If you’re familiar with the Nativity of Jesus, this is a safe bet for you and your little ones. Otherwise, wait for Coco.