26 December 2014

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger (starring David Tennant)

We very much enjoyed the film ‘Nativity’ (starring Martin Freeman) about eighteen months ago. It’s schmalzy, and quite silly in places, but it's quite amusing, the children are great, and it has a wonderful feel-good ending. We thought it would make excellent seasonal family viewing.

When I saw that the sequel, ‘Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger’ starred David Tennant, it was the work of a moment to add it to my wishlist, despite a very mixed bunch of reviews on Amazon. I received it for Christmas and we watched it with our adult sons and daughter-in-law...

Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as good as the first film. In the original, the harassed class teacher has to come up with a Christmas concert. The school pulls together, the Head is behind him, and the slapstick is mostly caused by his rivalry with a snooty private school nearby. There's a plot, there's development, there's a happy (if schmalzy) ending.

In this film Tennant plays Mr Peterson, the new class teacher. The plot is much more unlikely - and, at times, decidedly worrying. Mr Poppy (Mark Wootton), the irritatingly juvenile classroom assistant, is still around, and this time has been urging the children to audition for a national singing competition in Wales. The school Head has vetoed it, but this does not stop him from egging the children on, and writing a song for them. However there's no real reason for anything, no tension, no story as such. And far too much of Mr Poppy, who only has his job because he's the Head's nephew.

The story then gets sillier (and more worrying still, from a child protection point of view) when the class, unauthorised by the Head, and unknown to their parents, set off for the competition in an extremely odd bus driven by Mr Poppy. Mr Peterson is kidnapped as he tries to stop them, and panics about his wife, who might give birth at any moment...

We were getting annoyed and irritated by the first hour or so of this film, which was not humorous and made little sense. Then we become rather confused when the scene kept switching from the competition - already getting started, in the evening - to the class, staggering across rough ground, up steep hills, down ropes, accompanied by a baby and a donkey… in broad daylight. Without any food or drink, as far as we could see, wearing their costumes, but not getting dirty.

But we kept watching. I'm not entirely sure why. But finally we were rewarded: the last half hour was a great deal better. We very much enjoyed David Tennant playing a dual role superbly; we also quite liked the other choirs singing and dancing (although some of the implications of lyrics were not 'U' rated in my view). It made no sense that the starring school, despite their traumatic journey, and apparently no real rehearsals, absolutely stole the show. But then, we knew that was going to happen - and they did it very well, on the whole.

We also liked the unexpectedly warm (if schmalzy and clich├ęd) ending that brought the real meaning of Christmas back into focus, albeit briefly.

But I'd rather have re-watched the original; this one is a poor imitation and I wouldn't really recommend it.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews

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