Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Star: A Quality Animated Film for the Whole Family

Movie Review: The Star (2017)
Version: Library borrow

We are well beyond Christmas, but we just watched The Star, which is an animated movie about the birth of Jesus Christ. I'm writing this during Holy Week, just ahead of Easter, so this may still have resonance for some audiences. It's a well-done film for the whole family that makes the birth story easily understandable for all ages, which fun side characters who make the story fun and relatable yet don't get in the way of the actual story. My older daughter who has intellectual disabilities and finds religious topics difficult to comprehend finally understood the Christmas story, thanks to The Star.

Adults may find the side characters -- donkeys, a mountain-climbing sheep, a silly dove, delirious camels, and Roman killer dogs -- silly and distracting. But they do keep the story from being overly simplified and slightly preachy. And kids love silly and distracting animal animated stories, so there's that.

The voice cast is pretty amazing, too. Steven Yeun plays Bo, a donkey who attaches himself to Mary and Joseph as they walk their way to Bethlehem for the Roman census, unaware that a seething Roman with two fearsome dogs is tracking them down. Keegan-Michael Key plays Dave, Bo's best friend, who is obsessed with joining a royal caravan instead and is a distraction from helping Mary and Joseph. Aidy Bryant plays Ruth, a bouncy sheep in search of this amazing star that has suddenly appeared in the sky and who helps Bo pursue Mary and Joseph in the wilderness. They comprise the core of the animal characters. Gina Rodriguez plays Mary and Zachary Levi plays Joseph. Also includes Christopher Plummer, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Patricia Heaton, Kris Kristofferson, Kristin Chenoweth, Mariah Carey, and Oprah Winfrey.

In The Star, Mary has been visited by the angel Gabriel to announce that she will become the mother of the promised Messiah. She finally returns from her months-long visit with her cousin Elizabeth to an anxious Joseph, who is ready to wed her. Then he discovers she is pregnant and begins to rethink his marriage, when he, too, is visited by Gabriel, and accepts his role, although not without trepidation over the responsibility of raising the child who will be the savior of the world. Then along comes the Roman census, requiring Joseph as the head of household to go to Bethlehem to register his family. Bo, meanwhile, is a lowly donkey tied to a mill grinding wheat. He can see through a knot hole in the wall a procession through town of a royal caravan, and his dream is to join the procession. His friend Dave, a wily dove, shares his dream. They escape, only to be chased by Bo's owner, and hide in Joseph's garden. Mary splints Bo's wounded leg and gives him extra tender care, creating a bond and allegiance that will end Bo's and Dave's dream of joining the caravan. And when a Roman thug arrives looking to find and kill Mary and the child in her womb, Bo goes all out to protect the special family he has adopted as his own. It is both a race to Bethlehem and to give safe birth to the Savior, with the help of Bo, Dave, and a few fun characters along the way.

In addition to a good story line, interesting characters, and great voice acting, The Story features top animation. This isn't a cheap production. It's right up there with hit films like Coco, Ferdinand, and the LEGO movies (although those were a different technology). You don't have to worry about your family being bored or weirded out by a cheap rip-off because of the quality -- the quality is there.

I can say without a doubt, The Star is a good film for the family, whether it's for Christmas or for Easter. Or anytime you want to entertain your youngsters with a good story.

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