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Movie Review: Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger

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Posted November 21, 2012 by Paul Fennessy in 2012
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Rating

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Overview

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Release Date: November 23
 

Pros:

Part of its proceeds go to Children in Need, David Tennant delivers a decent performance, the singing and dancing is spirited.
 

Cons:

Mr Poppy is a profoundly disturbing character, the film's jokes are mainly unfunny, the kids lack anything resembling a personality.
 

The sequel to the Martin Freeman-starring 2009 film, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger is the cinematic equivalent of a bad school play.

by Paul Fennessy
Full Article

Have you ever had the desperate urge to make a dash towards the exit of a cinema within two minutes of a film starting?

Unfortunately, I experienced this disconcerting feeling while watching Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger – a sequel to the similarly named Martin Freeman-starring 2009 movie, and the official BBC Children in Need film of 2012.

And while struggling after two minutes, ten minutes in, I was practically gasping – cursing myself for forgetting to check the running time before entering the cinema (105 painful minutes, in case you’re wondering).

The plot revolves around Donald Peterson (played by David Tennant of Doctor Who and Harry Potter fame), an uptight teacher who reluctantly helps take charge of a troubled class who are simultaneously being looked after by the irresponsible but good-natured classroom assistant, Mr Poppy.

Mr Poppy persuades the world-weary Donald to allow the class to enter the National ‘Sing a Song for Christmas’ competition, thus instigating a road trip to Christmas Castle in Wales (the venue for the event), during which much chaos and supposed hilarity ensues.

Let’s start with the positives because it won’t take long – Tennant does his best to breathe life into the movie, and represents a welcome screen presence in contrast with one or two of the other more irritating performers.

There are also some nice shots of the Welsh countryside, while the film’s singing and dancing sequences are above average for the most part.

One of the primary problems is Mr Poppy. He is meant to be a lovable eccentric. Instead, he comes across as a creepy man child

And the negatives? Well, one of the primary problems is Marc Wootton, who plays Mr Poppy. He is meant to be seen as a lovable eccentric with an underlying immaturity. Instead, he comes across as exactly what he is deep down – a creepy man child (surely the BBC should be distancing themselves from this sort of material). And when he asks an actual child, with the utmost level of sincerity, if he’ll be his best friend, the effect is unsettling rather than heartwarming.

Indeed, Mr Poppy’s behaviour is so odd it seems inconceivable that such a person could exist in real life without being confined to an institution, or at least being given some desperately needed psychiatric treatment.

And unfortunately, the movie’s dialogue is as annoying as Wootton’s character at times. It has enough scatological humour to make an Eddie Murphy comedy seem mature by comparison, and the script has a tendency to repeat jokes that were unfunny the first time around (adults mispronouncing Justin Bieber’s name seems particularly hilarious to the film’s makers).

What’s more, the kids in this film are possibly the most bland and improbable bunch of youngsters in movie history. Despite having to endure a long, exhausting trip with the ‘village idiot’, as one character accurately labels Mr Poppy, not once do any of them misbehave, complain or even frown.

In fact, these kids have basically no personality at all, with the exception of one child, of whom it’s vaguely mentioned that his dad has recently left the family, though even this is just an excuse for Mr Poppy to indulge in a bizarre sing song about his own absent father.

Perhaps the filmmakers simply didn’t have enough confidence in their young actors to give them feelings or any sort of backstory, and presumably figured the best solution was to tell them to just keep smiling nonchalantly throughout the movie.

Moreover, the fact that it ends following an excruciatingly lengthy talent show, with an abundance of vacuous fake smiles regularly filling up the screen, is fitting given that it resembles a bad school play more so than any film.

So in short, I didn’t like it.

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About the Author

Paul Fennessy

Paul likes films, books, music and artsy stuff in general. He also likes writing about those subjects, preferably typing at 100 miles an hour while simultaneously slurping coffee and checking his Twitter stream.

  • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

    But seriously, Paul, tell us what you really think.

    (Having watched the trailer, I too am now deeply disturbed by Mr. Poppy, not least because he’s Shirley Ghostman)

    • http://twitter.com/fenno21 Paul Fennessy

      As I said on Twitter, I decided to be generous and give it half a star.

  • Will Fitzgerald

    What is David Tennant doing?!
    He has worldwide popularity – is this really the best he can do?

  • http://twitter.com/ToeMcD Tony McDermot

    I am astonished, flabbergasted and disturbed that they didn’t make the subtitle: Manger Danger.

  • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura

    No David! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! *falls to knees*

  • http://missmufit.com/ julie

    Haha quite harsh but some of it true! I tried to be a bit kinder because its Christmas and all… here’s my review http://missmufit.com/2012/11/24/nativity-2-danger-in-the-manger-movie-review/ !

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