Directed by: Debbie Isitt -Starring: Simon Lipkin, Daniel Boys, Craig Revel Horwood, Meera Syal, Helen George, Ruth Jones, Celia Imrie, Hugh Dennis, Anna Chancellor, Ramin Karimloo
As difficult as it is to believe, this is the fourth offering from the Nativity franchise. I must admit that I found the first one rather charming, but it’s been a pretty steady decline since then. That’s not to say that the basic premise of a school putting on a Nativity play doesn’t warm the cockles at this time of year, but there are only so many hilarious capers that can happen around the production of this seasonal staple.
This is probably why they have failed to attract the calibre of cast that previous offerings have boasted. Gone are the likes of Martin Freeman and David Tennant, and instead we get musical theatre star, Simon Lipkin and Call The Midwife’s Helen George.
This time around, Coventry is in the running for the title of most Christmassy town, so the school are encouraged to put on a Nativity Rock Opera. Enter Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood as a preening theatre director, who tries to take over the whole show, much to the chagrin of the locals. Throw in Lipkin as a kind of man/child desperately searching for a family, overworked parents who learn the value of spending time with their son, and – just for good measure – a young Syrian refugee searching for his father, and you have all the ingredients for a Christmas cheesefest.
If you’ve seen the previous offerings, then you’ll know that any storyline, no matter how thin, is only padding for the actual show itself. And here, the storylines are pretty thin and riddled with randomness. The actual Nativity show itself is kind of a School of Rock rip-off, except not as polished, and the stage-school prodigies playing the school children often come across as annoying.
However, the screening I attended saw the children in the audience bouncing up and down in their seats, and running to the front of the cinema to dance along, so clearly this appeals to its target audience.
Revel Horwood is perfectly cast as the pantoesque baddie here, but other than him, the rest of it all feels rather samey and desperate. There’s not really enough in it to engage the adults who will be accompanying the children to it, and it feels like this franchise has well and truly run out of steam.
But as I observed at the screening, the children really seemed to like it, so if you want to amuse them for 100 minutes or so, then this could work for you.
In Cinemas Now! Trailer below: