The Star takes an interesting approach to the heroic animal animated film. The Nativity of Jesus, a well-known story, and a popular play for schools, inspires Sony Pictures Christmas animation. Mary, Joseph, the three wise men – all the characters are a part of this story. The protagonist for this story, however, is Bo, the donkey.
The film starts off with Mary finding out that she will give birth to ‘the Messiah’. We then go to Bo, who is stuck milling wheat with an older donkey. He has big dreams and feels he has a greater future than just being stuck on a leash and going round in circles. Once he escapes with the help of the older donkey, Bo winds up in the home of Mary and Joseph with an injured ankle. Here his journey shifts to helping Mary and Joseph in their journey to Bethlehem.
Mary comes across as affectionate and kind (thank God), so audiences will have no problem cheering for her. The best parts of the film come when Bo and Mary are together. They are feel-good moments. Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end.
The evil King Herod, who sends his head soldier and his two dogs, Thaddeus and Rufus to hunt down the “new king,” is barely seen throughout the 83 minute duration. Despite a few sinister orders, you don’t fully grasp how evil the King is or is supposed to be.
While the Nativity of Jesus certainly has some ‘divine intervention’, there seem to be far too many random events in this film. Understandably, they want to send out a strong religious message, but as a viewer we want our characters to be more active and do a lot more than relying on God’s help. That is the main problem with Bo, while Steve Yuen’s voice acting is fine, the actual character does nothing except get rescued. It’s a far contrast to Ferdinand, which hit cinemas at a similar time last year, where John Cena’s bull drives the narrative and makes things happen, especially in the climax. While Ferdinand goes out rescuing his foe Valiente from the slaughterhouse, The Star’s Bo gets help from his friends Ruth (the sheep) and Dave (the bird).
The film also rushes through the narrative and gives us no back-story for Bo. Going back to the Ferdinand comparisons, the beginning of 20th Century Fox’s story of the bull was pivotal as that’s where we learned why we should care for the kind-hearted bull. With The Star, one minute our Donkey has no hope of a life outside the miller, and the next minute he has escaped. It’s too quick, and there is no adversity for our characters.
The Star’s cast is quite strong, but even Oprah Winfrey can’t do anything with this lacklustre project. Mariah Carey’s ‘The Star’ song is average at best and does not compare to great songs like ‘You’re Welcome’ and ‘Let it go!’
As I mentioned earlier, the idea of basing Bo’s story around the Nativity of Jesus was a good one, but unfortunately, it fails in its execution. The Star feels like a film trying to capitalise on the Christmas holidays, and while it is a safe option for Churches and Schools, this film lacks the drama and character depth to capture a universal audience. This Star does not shine.
Dir: Timothy Reckart
Scr: Carlos Kotkin
Cast: Steven Yuen, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Christopher Plummer, Kelly Clarkson, Oprah Winfrey
Prd: Jenni Magee-Cook
Runtime: 83 minutes.
The Star is available on DVD now.