A talking donkey, a dancing bird, and three camels save Jesus.
That is what I thought The Star, a film by Sony Animation telling the birth narrative of Jesus, was going to be about. I sat with my arms crossed and eyes critical as my screener of the film started.
Mary had bright green eyes? I scoffed.
There is the donkey that is going to save God, I thought, rolling my eyes.
Then the story began. I chuckled. My arms relaxed. My knee bounced to remixes of familiar Christmas songs. Suddenly, I was interested and enjoying a movie I did not plan to like.
Most movies about Jesus’ birth go one of two ways. They are dry retellings or they take so many artistic licenses they miss the point. The Star, by creating its own story within the story of Jesus’ birth, strikes an appropriate balance.
Its clever writing and fun dialogue genuinely surprised me. The animation is beautifully done. It is obvious this studio knows what it is doing and the creative minds behind this film care a great deal about making a purposeful movie.
The Star sticks close to the birth narrative in the gospels. A star appears and is seen by all the animals. Bo (Stephen Yeun), a donkey whose life is to be spent milling grain, sees it and wants to taste freedom. Through slapstick and shenanigans, he is found and adopted by a very pregnant Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi).
The film does not shy away from referring to Jesus as the Son of God, both in song and in dialogue. It repeatedly calls Him the Messiah. But, and this is a good thing, it does not get deep into theological territory.
A movie can be fun, engaging, and theologically rich all at the same time (see Les Miserables circa 1998). The Star touches on biblical and beautiful theological truths, but does not dive deep. I think this is a good approach because it allows me, the parent, to ask my children questions and teach them personally. I appreciate a movie that does that. There is enough truth in the film to get my children asking questions, but not enough to be considered a Bible study, which no movie is.
Overall, this is a movie that will be welcomed into my home with my three kids. And I am sure it will become a Christmas tradition to watch is over and over again. And, unlike more movies my kids watch, I won’t mind.
The Star was released on DVD, BluRay, and digitally February 20. Special features on the DVD include a 10-minute conversation executive producer DeVon Franklin had with children after they watched the film. The discussion centers on defining faith and how to keep the Christmas spirit alive year round. Other special features include quick Christmas crafts, which kids will love to make. For me, the most interesting was a peek behind the scenes in a conversation with director Timothy Reckart. He talks about how most movies depict Jerusalem as a dusty and brown place, but in the time of Jesus' birth is was green and luscious. It had a great deal of color and he sought to capture that in The Star. I would say he did a great job.