An eye-catching, if somewhat odd ensemble power this animated bible story
Directed by Timothy Reckart, a 2013 Oscar-nominee for his short Head Over Heels and the lead animator on Anomalisa, The Star is the New Testament nativity story told from the perspective of the animals and shorn of as much potentially divisive detail as possible. This is a bible-based, animated adventure for children, with the emphasis on cute comedy and familiar pious tropes; it's somewhat dry and bland, but simplicity and an over-qualified voice cast help see it through.
Bo the donkey (The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun) and his scat-singing pal Dave the dove (comedian Keegan-Michael Key, of Key and Peele fame) escape from barnyard drudgery to follow a celestial portent: a star in the east. They initially bump into Joseph (Zachary Levi) and his pregnant wife Mary (Gina Rodriguez) when the latter binds Bo's injured leg, then follow the couple to Bethlehem to protect them from the wicked King Herod (Christopher Plummer). On the way to the manger, Bo and Dave encounter Ruth, a lost sheep (Saturday Night Live's Aidy Bryant), and the three wise men, whose camels Cyrus, Felix and Deborah are voiced by Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan and Oprah Winfrey respectively.
As well as its diverse ensemble of central players, casting the net wider, Reckart's film boasts a genuinely odd roster of supporting vocal talent, including such previously unrecognised children's favourites as Kris Kristofferson and Ving Rhames, plus pop singers Kelly Clarkson and Mariah Carey, the latter performing the truly bombastic title song. Such randomness might be distracting if The Star wasn't aimed so squarely at kids, while ticking off the celebrity cameos is one way for adults to pass the time.
Shorter and preferable to previous animated bible stories such as DreamWorks' po-faced effort The Prince of Egypt, The Star's blend of silly pratfalls and heartfelt religious sentiment will preach primarily to the already converted, but those looking for wholesome Christmas entertainment will find what they crave here.
General release from Fri 24 Nov.