Courtesy of Catherine Hardwicke, The Nativity has become the most boring story ever told. Chronicling the year or so before Christ’s birth, from Mary’s marriage to Joseph to the couple’s dramatic sojourn to Nazareth, this passionless, abysmally acted film does not boast Hardwicke’s customary visual flair, but her characters still cope with crisis in suspiciously modern ways. Hardwicke is not winking at us so it’s crucial not to confuse her laziness for subversion. When Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is married off to Joseph (Oscar Isaac), the young girl turns petulant, but her disrespect for tradition and the way she’s subsequently treated by her friends and neighbors after returning from Judea with a much rounder belly suggests that Hardwicke, director of Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown, has no interest in understanding how people from this time might have behaved. (A scene in which two boys react to John the Baptist’s circumcision is one spit take away from a Three’s Company episode.) And yet the director’s reverence is duller than her imagination: She sets up the way-of-life of cities like Bethlehem with banal zooms into bad extras toiling in fields or giggling at their crushes, but there’s greater insult in the visit the angel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) pays Mary, telling her that the Holy Spirit is about to impregnate her—a scene that exudes absolutely no sense of mystery, fear, ecstasy, or uplift. The Passion of the Christ was sadistic but at least it was visionary. The Nativity Story is also insulting, but it’s not our morals it attacks, only our intelligence. Cutting back and forth between Mary and Joseph’s domestic and spiritual trials with the twirling-mustachery of Herod (Ciáran Hinds) over in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the journey of the Three Wise Men—all, ostensibly, stand-up comedians—to witness the birth of Christ, the film suggests a corny high school production of The Nativity.
- Catherine Hardwicke
- Mike Rich
- Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Hiam Abbass, Shaun Toub, Alexander Siddig, Nadim Sawalha, Eriq Ebouaney, Stefan Kalipha, Said Amadis, Stanley Townsend, Ciáran Hinds, Shohreh Aghdashloo
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