The Star review: a preachy nativity story, with added talking animals

Dir: Timothy Reckart; Starring: Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Christopher Plummer. U cert, 86 mins.

There are admittedly less promising ways to begin a retelling of the nativity than with a caption that reads “nine months BC”. And it’s with that promising joke that we drop in on this new seasonal CG cartoon from Sony Pictures Animation, which gives the birth of Christ the animals-with-celebrity-voices treatment. 

The Star isn’t a badly made film, but it is a fatally compromised one, affecting an air of wise-cracking irreverence it can never bring itself to actually follow through on, presumably for fear of coming off sacrilegious and alienating its target market. The pretence is that we are getting something along the lines of The Lego Jesus Movie, or Cloudy with a Chance of Immaculate Conception.

But what it actually delivers is a preachy, bland and fastidiously inoffensive kind of ersatz fun – a little like those knock-off Christian video games from the early 1990s that mimicked existing hits, but which made you pray for people instead of shoot them. Intriguingly, the Jim Henson Company gets a production credit, though from watching, it’s impossible to tell for what.

Most of The Star is taken up with the not-strictly scriptural adventures of Mary and Joseph’s pet donkey Bo (Steven Yuen), whose name is short for Boaz, and who helps the Biblical narrative along by locating the famous stable himself, then mobilising a small army of wildlife to fend off the infanticidal thug sent out by Christopher Plummer’s King Herod.