Christmas isn't Christmas without a new festive movie offering. Some years it's a turkey and some years it's the kind of movie that really gets you into the spirit of things. Thankfully, 'Nativity' is the latter.
Failed-actor-turned-teacher Paul Maddens (Freeman) is becoming more Scrooge-like by the year. Christmas reminds him of happy times, before his girlfriend Jennifer (Jensen) left him to pursue a career in Hollywood. And as if that wasn't enough to make him hate the season, his rival from his acting days Gordon Shakespeare (Watkins), who is now also a teacher, seems to be around every bend, waiting to gloat about the fact that he's working at a posher school, that values drama and frequently wins rave reviews for their Christmas Nativity performance.
Mr Maddens is hoping to just bury his head and ignore the festive season but a few people have other ideas. The school's headmistress (Ferris) is one of them. She's about to retire and would like St Bernadette's to put on a memorable Christmas play for her last year at the helm and she thinks that Mr Maddens would be the perfect person to direct said play. To offer him some assistance in this task she also recruits a classroom assistant by the name of Mr Poppy (Wootton). Enthusiastic, child-like and inspiring, Mr Poppy is about to rock Mr Madden's world by latching on to a little white-lie and taking it global.
It all starts when Shakespeare announces that he's planning on, yet again, claiming a five-star review from the local theatre critic (Carr) for his pupils' Nativity. To eclipse him Mr Maddens implies that his ex Jennifer is bringing some of her Hollywood pals over to make a film about St Bernadette's Nativity - not true, but a satisfying tale to spin at the time. No harm done... that is until Mr Poppy announces that Hollywood is coming to town, inspiring massive over-reactions from the community. There are 'X Factor' style auditions for the kids, interviews with television stations and then some serious grovelling to be done in order to make the lie a reality. All the while, Gordon Shakespeare is about to burst with jealousy.
‘Nativity' never forgets what it's supposed to be, with laughs around every corner and some fantastic characters. It's the right amount of sweet, funny and festive. Martin Freeman and Marc Wootton are brilliant opposite each other, playing grumpy Scrooge and over-grown elf to perfection. The children of Mr Maddens' very talented, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, class are also infectious to watch, as they add a new twist to the Nativity with their break-dancing and rapping.
This movie has a charm that just grabs you straight off. It's not about smacking home a message or laying the silly jokes on too thick. It's just about recapturing the fun and, I suppose, believing.