Most helpful positive review
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Tale as old as time...
on 6 January 2012
Primary school teacher Paul Madddens has had enough. One of his old ex-friends always manages to trump him in the annual Nativity play, garnering 5 star reviews in the local paper while Paul's school barely manages to get out of the minus stars. So when the headteacher puts Paul in charge of this year's Nativity play, he isn't happy and invents a small white lie to make out it's going to be amazing - that his ex-girlfriend, now a Hollywood producer is going to come over and watch it along with some of her colleagues. This isn't true but when enthusiastic classroom assistant Mr Poppy hears it, he tells the children and all hell breaks loose. Mr Poppy and the kids are determined to put on the best Nativity play the town has ever seen. Sure enough, even Mr Maddens manages to get up a bit of excitement for it but for one problem... how is he going to break it to everyone that Hollywood isn't coming after all?
This film is everything Christmas with children should be about - fun, laughter, and excessive practicing for the annual school nativity play. As someone who works in a school with a foundation stage class, I could totally relate to a lot of what was going on between the adults at school, but also the fun of the children they were teaching too. Anyone who works in a school will really relate to this, and anyone who has kids won't be able to resist going "awwwww!" at every cute thing the talented child cast in this film manage to do. Perhaps I loved it that bit more than my parents because I'm in that environment all day, every day but I just cannot tell you how much I loved this film, I really can't! The child cast are phenomenal, they are only young yet deliver lines, sing songs and deal with choreography like seasoned professionals, and they are a joy to watch. The rivalry between Mr Shakespeare (of the posh school) and Mr Maddens (of the not-so-posh school) gives us a bit of a comedy element, and it's funny to see the differences between the teachers and the way the children interact with each teacher... there's certainly a lesson in there for the more competitive grown-ups amongst us!
As for the adult cast, well they are all perfectly suited to their roles and I loved them! Martin Freeman will forever be "Tim" from The Office to me, no matter what other parts he does, but he plays the part of caring yet exaperated Mr Maddens perfectly, and I am sure a lot of teachers out there will see a bit of themselves in him. However, my favourite by far was the magnificent Mr Poppy played the hilarious Marc Wootton. I haven't seen Wootton in anything previously, yet I felt he was the energy and driving force behind this movie as I was watching and I was captivated by him on-screen, with both the other adults, but especially with the children. We really do need more men like Mr Poppy in our schools with our young people, and he was a joy to watch on-screen. Ashley Jensen was more of a guest role really, only appearing in a few flashbacks with Freeman, and then a few scenes near the end of the film, and Pam Ferris does a wonderful job of playing headmistress Mrs Bevan... nothing like her Miss Trunchball role you'll be pleased to hear!
I was worried that we wouldn't get to see much of the actual Nativity play in question, as is per the norm in movies these days, but we were treated to around 15 minutes of wonderful songs and performance from Mr Madden's class at the end of the film, and it was brilliant to watch. The storyline of the creation of this Nativity play with the class, Mr Maddens and Mr Poppy is the main one, but running alongside that is the broken heart of Mr Maddens, devastated after his ex-girlfriend fled to Hollywood for her career. The storyline around that, and the things the young children in his class say are so touching and heart-warming, I did feel myself welling up! The soundtrack is brilliant, with the original songs that the children sing being brilliantly modern and festive at the same time, and the rehearsal scenes were among some of the funniest! Mr Poppy is particular was most enthusiastic! This is certainly a movie that tugs on your heart-strings - yes it's cheesy and no it won't be everyone's cup of tea but I for one loved it, and can't wait to put it on every Christmas for a bit of festive cheer and lovely singing children. Utterly charming, and a film I thoroughly enjoyed!