The task of bringing, possibly, the best-known story in the world to the big screen was always going to be a daunting task and director Catherine Hardwicke was facing an uphill battle when she undertook the task.

In recent times the life of Jesus Christ has been depicted on the big screen with mixed success and reaction. 'The Da Vinci Code' was slammed by the Vatican and critics alike but became a runaway winner at the box office, so much so that more movies in the series are now being planned. 'The Passion of the Christ' was criticised for its treatment of the Jewish people despite Mel Gibson's attempt to keep the story as accurate as he believed, to the extent that it rivalled 'Braveheart' for the amount of gore and violence illustrated.

However, there is little chance that 'The Nativity Story' will cause such uproar, and indeed it will be an altogether bigger surprise if it becomes a big hit with the punters. Hardwicke has opted to stay away from any new interpretation or addition to the tale that we were all made familiar with as soon as we began our journey throughout the Irish education system.

There is clearly a reluctance to use any new imagery or symbolism, indeed the only point where it seems to stray from parts of the bible is when the Holy Spirit is depicted as a hawk rather than a dove.

It is possible that the movie suffers due to the fact that we are so familiar with it, you could almost narrate it yourself, such is the formula that Hardwicke has adhered to. Even the dialogue has been taken straight from the Bible and there is a clear reluctance to delve deeper in into the scandal of an unplanned, divinely-induced, pregnancy of a virgin in Israel at the time. True, Joseph (Isaac) does have difficulty coming to terms with it but we only see a small part of the reaction of the others surrounding Mary (Castle-Hughes). A closer look into their thoughts may have given us more food for thought.

As a result, the whole thing comes over as a bit bland, we are denied excitement due to our knowledge of events and the only thing that spices up the story is the journey of the three wise men to worship at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Keisha Castle-Hughes plays the role of Mary, a good respected daughter who is confused as to why God has chosen her to bring his son in to the world. Joseph is played by Oscar Isaac in the best performance of the cast while Irishman Ciarán Hinds does well as the overly superstitious and suspicious King Herod.

The Vatican have approved the production, another indication of the little additional insight that we are given into the life of Mary. 'The Nativity Story', not to be confused with a prequel to 'The Passion...' or a sequel to 'The Ten Commandments', suffers from the fact that it avoids delving deeper into the background of the characters and remains overly faithful to the event as described in the New Testament of the Bible.

Patrick Kennedy