This film uses a mix of 3D model and 2D animation to tell the story of Christ through the eyes of a child. In ancient Israel, young Tamar (voiced by Rebecca Callard) meets Jesus (Ralph Fiennes), a carpenter, whose ability to perform miracles and teachings on God draw a band of loyal followers around him. As Jesus' popularity grows, he comes to challenge the authority of the established Judaic religious leaders, who begin to plot his downfall. A distinguished voice cast includes Richard E. Grant as John the Baptist, plus the late Bob Peck and Daniel Massey in their final roles.
This animated feature-length life of Jesus boasts a stellar pedigree. Originally a BBC Wales production, it showcases the voices of some of Britain's finest actors in any medium: Ralph Fiennes as a brooding and humble Jesus, Miranda Richardson as Mary Magdalene, Richard E. Grant as John the Baptist and David Thewlis as Judas. The lovely, flute-heavy score is by Oscar-winner Anne Dudley (The Full Monty
). And clearly a lot of expense has gone into the Claymation-like animation. But while it's hard to find fault with the rendering of this familiar story--it is respectful and definitely done, you might say, by the Book--it would have been nice if there had been a tad more joy, if it walked a bit lighter in its sandals. As it is, all the characters seem consistently subdued, whether they are expressing angst, rage, terror or bliss--none of which is helped by the figures' blank-eyed stares (if animators are becoming ever more sophisticated, why can't they get rid of those creepy blank gazes once and for all?). Still, the weight of having such formidable actors play these familiar roles lends the production a certain credibility, and parents looking for good religious videos that won't insult their kids' intelligence will be thrilled. --Anne Hurley