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Nativity! [DVD]
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on 21 November 2010
Sorry folks but this is not a 5 star film. It's family friendly warm Christmas fare but it has many weaknesses. It's much too sugary, has a very thin plot and would be better suited to a 1 hr TV slot. The kids are good fun but the film is little more than a series of cutie cutie set pieces for them with the flimsiest of stories to hold everything together. Try Flint Street Nativity for a better, funnier and more entertaining British Christmas film.
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on 8 March 2015
I'm not sure which is worse - the fact that this film was made in the first place, or the fact that people paid money to watch it! A film so bad as to be offensive! Having children or loving Christmas are neither convincing or acceptable excuses for wasting your money on this garbage!
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on 4 December 2010
I had heard about this film last year but never managed to get to the cinema to see it - but I wish I had. It is absolutely lovely and just what Christmas films should be about. It will make you laugh out loud, it will make your heart ache and the tears flow but it will also make you sing and dance and you will never be sorry you watched it. It has a fabulous cast but I am sure you will end up agreeing that the stars of the film are the children themselves. It is about believing in the power of children at Christmas and about making children feel the magic of Christmas. It is full of joy, laughter and love and if that isn't what Christmas is about then I don't know what is. Mark Wootton is fantastic and I am sure there will be many a child wishing there was a 'Mr Poppy' at their school. Whether you are young or not so young, single or committed, girl or boy, a parent or one day hoping to be, then this is the film for you this Christmas. It is wonderful and I hope you buy it, gather all your loved ones around you, light the fire, make the hot chocolate and settle down for one of the best nights of your Christmastime. Happy Christmas and may all your days be merry and bright.
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on 28 December 2012
Essentially a (very) poor man's School of Rock, this is a rather wearing and silly story, not very well acted. Indeed Martin Freeman's portrayal of the teacher sinking under the weight of the craziness he's inadvertently started is quite trying, he basically acts the same way (and says much the same things) in EVERY scene. The teaching assistant is funny at times but mostly unbelievable - how can an idiot like this also turn out to be a very clever producer?

I won't bother you with the details of the story, because I lost the will to live during the film and frankly can't remember all of it (and no way am I watching it again to check!), but basically the teacher (Freeman) is tasked with organising this year's school Nativity play, and, still reeling from his girl friend's desertion and move to Hollywood, promises his pupils that 'Hollywood' would be coming to see their performance. Of course, because this is a film, and a very silly one at that, 'Hollywood' does come to the performance - which, stretching credibility way beyond any limits, ends up being performed in Coventry Cathedral, and includes kids being flown around on wires and singing and dancing like seasoned professionals, when they couldn't even sing in tune or dance in time just two days before. And, of course, the teacher gets his girlfriend back (I bet that surprised you).

I may have this story wrong, because it didn't make much sense to me and I wasn't exactly concentrating all the way through the film, but it was something along those lines. Or possibly not - I confess to not really caring.

Other reviews I've read say never mind how it looks to adults, kids love it, so I've given it two stars, but my kids didn't quite seem to share this view, both (7 and 3) drifting in and out of the film and actually wandering off before the end and missing the final performance completely. They are normally avid film fans who sit glued to the film all the way through and happily watch it again, given the chance, so I think that tells you all you need to know about this.

It's a pity, because the idea and plot could have been developed into a funny and heart-warming film, with better actors, a better director and a better script, but, alas, this wasn't to be.

Watch School of Rock instead - just as silly, but Jack Black is superb as the completely unhinged music teacher, and the climax is much more believable, and far more entertaining.
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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!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 April 2011
As warm and as enchanting as a Whisky Mac.
He's a failed actor, his girlfriend has left him and gone to make it big in America, and now, school teacher Paul Maddens has to direct the Nativity play. Worse still, after a little white bragging lie to an old rival, Maddens finds things escalating out of his control.

Ah, the Christmas movie, a piece of work aimed at a certain market at a certain time of year. Many movies of Christmas past have been excruciatingly bad, either by losing sight of the holiday heart, or by going for a different angle at a season which is meant to be jolly. In the main then, the Crimble picture has been blighted by a train of thinking akin to damned if you do, damned if you don't. Debbie Isitt's Nativity! will not achieve any reviews proclaiming it to be refreshingly new, rightly so since it's a standard seasonal fare based story. What hopefully will be said is how utterly beguiling and warming the film is, so yeah! Basically a Christmas picture doing its job.

Chiefly in its favour is that it has a naturalness to it that keeps its charm grounded. There's no miracle in the offering here, no boink over the head with a sledgehammer to enforce its message. Isitt is happy letting the film and its delightful characters go with the flow, the result ending up as being a fully involving experience. It helps too that the army of children (plucked from local auditions by Issitt) are adorable and funny in equal measure. Not that the adults come up short either. Martin Freeman (Maddens) gives a wonderfully controlled performance as the central character, while Marc Wooton as Mr. Poppy, a character showing the child in all us adults, almost steals the movie from the delightful moppet squad. It has its faults, such as a trip to America that quickly loses momentum, and if we are honest then surely the actual Nativity finale goes on a touch too long. But such missteps are easily forgiven given the impact as a whole.

My cinema visiting group at Xmas 2009 consisted of 4 adults and 4 teenagers. As we filed out, there was a mixture of wet eyes and beaming smiles. So yeah! Job done for sure. 8/10

Footnote: Xmas 2013. With a sequel hitting the theatres this Christmas I thought it time to revisit this film. Delighted to report that it still manages to warm the old cockles of my Xmas heart and remains a seasonal picture that I urge more folk to seek out.
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on 15 January 2013
Nativity is a humble and modest production and in that way is does showcase what is great about British cinema. Sometimes though I do feel it is a little too humble for its own good, treading a dangerous line between quaint and boring and maybe even stepping into the realms of being a little bit tedious.

Here we have a story where a failed actor, played by Martin Freeman, becomes a primary school teacher in a bid to give his life meaning. In the process of aspiring to this dream he loses his girlfriend and all self respect. All this while his former colleague, also a failed actor, becomes a very successful teacher, producing a critically acclaimed Nativity play every year. In an effort to gloat, Martin Freeman's character says that the His Nativity, that his school is producing, is so good that Hollywood execs are coming over from America to see it. This information is leaked to the press and, implied hilarity doth ensue.

Nativity isn't lacking in that trademark English charm, which seems to be the export that keeps us hanging on to our spot on the international stage, however, the charm doesn't come in the form of a bumbling Hugh Grant/ Colin Firth-type, but in a group of primary school aged children, from Coventry. Yes, these kids steal the show, and quite rightly to, where as the bulk of the cast is comprised of British TV's finest, the supporting sprogs are made up of, from what I can tell, normal everyday school children. This casting decision is what makes the film bearable, I think in pre-production this may have seemed to have been a questionable decision, but in my eyes the gamble most certainly paid off. The kids are as natural as you could hope they would be, being as cute and troublesome as all kids in that age range.

Of course the adults don't go unnoticed either, Martin Freeman in particular, plays his part as the man with his feet firmly on the ground as good as he ever has. He is anchored far away from the madness that is quickly unravelling around him by his lack of self esteem that he projects on everything and everyone around him. The idiotic teaching assistant, played by Marc Wootton, is kind of endearing in his ability to connect with the kids on such a successful level, but eventually this immaturity in the character starts to become a little bit tiresome. I do feel that Wooton's brand of comedy is better suited to a late night BBC three sketch show, rather than a big screen production.

Good points aside, this film falls into one of the clichés that irritate the hell out of me- it has to be connected to the USA somehow. British productions often do this; I can only guess that it is a way to make the film feel more cinematic, by associating itself with the big dogs. I have always championed British entertainment and I maintain that we are good enough on our own, we don't need to take the narrative to America, I have watched so many films that do this, that, at this point it just feels extremely forced and quite frankly it gets on my nerves.

Despite Nativity being a great concept, it is maybe guilty of dwelling a little too long on the things that it has going for it and thus being a bit "over-cute" or "over-sentimental". Also despite its narrative associations with tinsel town, this film never reaches the heights of feeling cinematic in the slightest bit, I feel its home is on channel four on Christmas eve, because if I ever did see a movie made for TV, this is it.
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on 9 January 2013
Watched only !5 minutes of this load of rubbish ( had been recommended by a teacher colleague from my school - no accounting for taste !) The teaching assistant character was utterly vile and I couldn't bear to watch any more of it. I have donated it to my class of Year 3s for next christmas dvd session, I'm sure the humour is more appropriate for them !
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on 16 October 2010
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on 10 November 2017
This is the number one Christmas film for me. It's heart-warming, joyful, funny and such a lovely story about school children and their love-lorn teacher getting ready for Christmas and writing their own Nativity play to wow Hollywood producers. In a round about way it typifies what Christmas is all about. It's a tale about challenges, overcoming them and most of all love.

Children love it as much as the grown ups seem to. The songs the children sing in their Nativity play are just wonderful. I need tissues near by to watch this one, as the innocence of the performing children pulls at my heart strings every time. Martin Freeman is excellent in the lead role but is supported by a top class cast. Set in Coventry, the final scene in the Cathedral ruins has to be one of the best and most atmospheric sets ever for a Christmas movie. It feels like Christmas when I watch this film. Christmas begins and I feel the message of the season is wrapped up in this wonderful offering. A must have for every home, whether you have children or not. See it and you are left with the spirit of Christmas.
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