The Nativity Story

Film
DAYS OF HEAVEN Castle-Hughes waits for a sign.
DAYS OF HEAVEN Castle-Hughes waits for a sign.

Time Out says

I’ve scoured the Bible for 40 days and 40 nights, and I still haven’t found any chapter or verse that says, “And the Lord sayeth, 'Yea, you will go unto the land and tell of my only son’s coming, in many images and with a decent budget. Make sure there’s much angelic choir-singing on the soundtrack. See if the girl from Whale Rider is available; seriously, how awesome was she in that? And lo, heed my words: Don’t get screwed on the backend deal. Ask for net points, not gross.’ ”

Yet the absence of this divine declaration didn’t stop Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) from tackling the Good Book’s saga of how, in ancient times, Joseph (Isaac) and Mary (Castle-Hughes) rode to Bethlehem, and she gave birth to—spoiler alert!—Baby Jesus. Perhaps an angel, or maybe her agent, appeared before the director with box-office numbers for The Passion of the Christ, and that clinched the deal. Regardless, this much is certain: Hardwicke has turned this New Testament tale into a colossal cinematic belly flop of you-know-what proportions.

There are so many ludicrous, unintentionally laughable elements that it’s almost unfair to single out specific examples. Still, Ciarn Hinds’s eye-rolling turn as Herod, the script’s faux-astrological mumbo jumbo (“It’s Venus, if I’m correct. And I usually am.”) and Shohreh Aghdashloo’s repeated refrain of “Oh, child!” deserve special mention, as does Hardwicke’s attempt at establishing a comfort zone with repeated shots of teen-foolery. Never mind all those ’50s interpretations of the greatest story ever told; this is new-millennium holy crap of the highest order. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.)—David Fear

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