3.5 out of 10
Release Date: 27th November 2009
Director: Debbie Isitt (Nativity 3 / Nativity 2 / Confetti / Bad Neighbours)
Cast: Martin Freeman, Pam Ferris, Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins, Alan Carr, Rose Cavaliero, John Sessions, Phyllis Logan, Clarke Peters, Geoffrey Hutchings, Matt Rippy with Ricky Tomlinson and Ashley Jensen
Writer: Debbie Isitt
I’ve been putting off watching Debbie Isitt’s Nativity! for so long that it’s spawned two sequels. The director was previously known for semi-improvised / workshopped comedies Confetti and Bad Neighbours. Now she’ll be forever known as making a string of tepid comedies to wind up TV viewers almost annually.
The first Nativity!, set in Coventry, sees glum school teacher Mr Maddens (MARTIN FREEMAN – SHERLOCK) pit his team up against a formidable private school to stage the city’s best nativity play. He’s egged on by his class, and his manic new classroom assistant, Mr Poppy (MARC WOOTTON – NATIVITY 2) when they overhear a lie about him inviting a Hollywood producer to see them perform. He’s really only off-setting a boastful rant by arch-rival and old Uni pal, Mr Shakespeare (JASON WATKINS – NATIVITY 3) who is now the dramaa teacher at the private school. But the lie snowballs, until its so big there’s no going back. Saly Mr Maddens only knows one person in Hollywood and that’s his estranged ex-fiancee, Jennifer (ASHLEY JENSEN – THE LOBSTER).
There’s much to be said for being a childless adult, I’ve never had to go to any children’s nativity plays. This was fate’s way of making me sorry. As the film features said nativity performed from beginning to end without a pause at Coventry‘s old Cathedral.
The film is rescued by its supporting players, as Martin Freeman appears to be playing well within his stunted range. Glum and sarcastic, are like forwards and backwards to him. There should be more gears at an actor’s disposal but he’s not at all pushed to bring anything new to his role here. Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins and Pam Ferris (MATHILDA) win smiles and laughs left right and centre and it’s a relief that they all return for the shambolic second film.
Debbie Isitt’s plot revolves around last minute saves and redemption, as it’s a Christmas movie. It’s not all that soppy considering but it’s a disappointment to see such a promising film director play things so safe. She at least recognises where this first film’s strengths lie and thats in the cast lower down the pay-scale and they all return for the following film(s). The children are OK, if a touch wooden and they thoroughly get sidelined in the next installments as the adults potter about getting bitten by donkeys or pushed into rivers.
3.5 out of 10 – A least Nativity! feels Chrissmassy, but its not the laughter fest it could have been and it’s definitely one to be avoid if Martin Freeman’s stock ‘act’ irritates you.
SECOND REVIEW BY MATIVITY! Usher below.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Martin Freeman: Fun House, Captain America 3, Fargo (TV), Sherlock (TV), The Hobbit – There and Back Again, The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, Svengali, Saving Santa (voice), The World’s End, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, The Pirates In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), What’s Your Number?, Swinging With The Finkels, The Good Night, Wild Target (2010), Nightwatching, Breaking and Entering, Hot Fuzz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2006), Love Actually, Confetti, The Low Down, Ali G In Da House, The Office (TV)
- Pam Ferris: Call The Midwife (TV), Saving Santa (voice), Nativity 2, The Raven, Luther (TV), Malice In Wonderland, Telstar, Children Of Men, Rosemary & Thyme (TV), Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkhaban, Death To Smoochy, Matilda, The Darling Buds of May (TV), Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Meantime
- Marc Wootton: The Bad Education Movie, Nativity 3, The Harry Hill Movie, Nativity 2, Arthur Christmas (voice), Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, Confetti
- Jason Watkins: W1A (TV), Call The Midwife (TV), Nativity 3, Dr Who (TV), Nativity 2, Psychoville (TV), Being Human (TV), Little Dorrit (2008) (TV), Wild Child (2008), Sixty Six, Confetti, Bridget Jones 2, Circus, Onegin, High Hopes
- Alan Carr: Alan Carr – Chatty Man (TV), The Sunday Night Project (TV), The Friday Night Project (TV), The One Show (TV), Loose Women (TV)
- Rose Cavaliero: A Young Doctor’s Notebook (TV), Nativity 2, Jane Eyre (2011), Little Dorrit (2008) (TV), Saxondale (TV), Cold Feet (TV)
- John Sessions: Alice In Wonderland 2, Mr Holmes, Legend (2015), Pudsey The Dog, Filth, The Iron Lady, Made In Dagenham, The Good Shepherd, The Adventures Of Pinocchio, In The Bleak Midwinter, Princess Caraboo, The Pope Must Die, Henry V (1989), The Bounty
- Phyllis Logan: Downton Abbey (TV), Day of the Flowers, Shooting Fish, Secrets and Lies, Soft Top Hard Shoulder, Freddie as FR07, The Doctor and The Devils
- Clarke Peters: The Bad Education Movie, John Wick, Treme (TV), True Detective (TV), Person of Interest (TV), Red Hook Summer, Legacy – Black Ops, Holby City (TV), Marley and Me, The Wire (TV), Mona Lisa, Outland
- Geoffrey Hutchings: Grandma’s House (TV), Benidorm (TV), Mike Bassett – England Manager, Maigret (TV), Brass (TV), Wish You Were Here, Clockwise
- Matt Rippy: Boogeyman 3
- Ricky Tomlinson: Mike Bassett – England Manager 2, Flutter, Northern Soul, The Royle Family (TV), Mike Bassett – Manager (TV), Once Upon a Time In The Midlands, Playing The Field (TV), Formula 51, Mike Bassett – England Manager, Nasty Neighbours, Mojo, Preaching To The Perverted, Cracker (TV), Bob’s Weekend, Butterfly Kiss, Raining Stones, Riff Raff, Brookside (TV)
- Ashley Jensen: The Lobster, The Legend of Barney Thompson, All Stars, Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), Hysteria, Gnomeo & Juliet (voice), Ugly Betty (TV), How To Train Your Dragon (voice), A Cock & Bull Story, Extras (TV)