The Star

Posted on November 14, 2017 at 5:40 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some thematic elements
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Peril and some violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 17, 2017
Date Released to DVD: February 6, 2018

Copyright 2018 Sony Pictures Animation
Sometimes a little part of a big story helps us see the big story more clearly. And so in “The Star,” we get to witness the Nativity through the eyes of a little donkey named Bo (Steven Yeun), and the friends he meets along the way as he helps Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi) on the way to Bethlehem.

Bo is stuck going around in circles in Nazareth — literally — yoked to a miller’s grinding wheel, his only view the rear end of the old-timer donkey in front of him (Kris Kristofferson). Through the window of the mill he glimpses the big world outside, and he dreams of doing something important, with a lot of pomp and splendor, and wants to escape so he can join the caravan of the king. Bo finally does escape, with some help from his best friend, a dove named Dave (Keegan-Michael Key). He hides out with the newlywed Mary, who welcomes him kindly and treats his injured leg, and then he ends up going with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Meanwhile, shepherds are watching the star, King Herod (Christopher Plummer) is sending a formidable soldier with two attack dogs (Ving Rhames and Gabriel Iglesias) to find the baby and make sure nobody threatens his right to the throne.

First-time feature director Timothy Reckart brings a background in stop-motion animation to give the look of this film exceptional depth and texture. The action and chase scenes as Bo tries to keep away first from the miller and later from Herod’s soldier show an astute appreciation for physical space and a real gift for making the most of it. The movie’s visual panache is enhanced by delightful voice talent from a widely diverse cast, including the camels of the three kings, voiced by Tyler Perry, Tracey Morgan, and Oprah Winfrey, Kristin Chenoweth as an excitable rodent, and “Saturday Night Live’s” Aidy Bryant as Ruth, a warm-hearted sheep who strays from her flock to follow the star. The stand-out is Key, whose high spirits show us that Dave the dove can be funny but most of all, he is a true friend.

Reckart also handles the tone very well, shifting seamlessly from gentle comedy to PG-friendly action without ever being disrespectful of or neglecting the movie’s main themes. The focus may be on Bo, but it is his experiences with Mary and Joseph that transform him.

Parents should know that this movie includes some peril and violence, brief potty humor, and reference to the virgin birth and pregnancy.

Family discussion: What did Bo learn about being important? Why didn’t Ruth stay with the flock?

If you like this, try: “Prince of Egypt”

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Twelve Great Christmas Movies That Don’t Feature Clarence the Angel, Bing Crosby, Tiny Tim, or a Leg Lamp

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Reprising from 2007:

I love It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and A Christmas Story as much as anyone. I love the bittersweet struggles of George Bailey and never get tired of seeing him try to resist falling in love with Mary when they’re on that phone call to Sam “Hee Haw!” Wainwright. I love the way Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as Wallace and Davis preserve the old general’s pride when they help him keep the resort going. And I love the way that Ralphie and his family find that Christmas is not about neatly wrapped gifts and perfectly harmonized carols or even a turkey dinner. That last scene, when they all laugh, knowing that this will be one of their best Christmas memories ever, is one of my favorite moments in any film I’ve ever seen. I’ve already written about how much I love every version of A Christmas Carol.

So, let’s assume you’ve seen all those already this year and are looking for something else. Here’s a list with one for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. And I’d love to hear about your favorites, too.


(From #6, Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Plus Halloween & Easter Celebrations)

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