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Cast: Martin Freeman, Pam Ferris, Ashley Jensen, Ricky Tomlinson, Rhydian Jones
An improvised comedy based around a school nativity play.CLICK HERE and TV episodes
With only two films out this year for the Christmas holidays, Nativity! (dir. Debbie Isitt) offers audiences a lovely and innocent story compared to A Christmas Carol (dir. Robert Zemeckis), making it a more compelling film for the whole family without feeling like a cheap effort for easy box office results.
Written and directed by Debbie Isitt, she has made the story very simple for the whole family to enjoy and has also written the dialogue in some scenes to be aimed at certain people at particular age groups.
The premise is about grumpy primary school teacher Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) who has never liked the Christmas holidays since he broke up from his girlfriend, Jennifer (Ashley Jensen). To make matters worse, heís forced to do the nativity play and has a new teacherís assistant, the highly lovable and childish Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton). With weeks of the nativity play to be shown, Paul bumps into Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins), a teacher of a high class school and whoís plays always get top reviews. Tired of his bigheaded rival, Paul makes up a lie that Hollywood producers are going to watch and film his nativity play, which follows with situations and affects on the other characters throughout the film.
Debbie Isittís last film was Confetti (dir. Debbie Isitt) and she uses the same improvisation technique in this film and she also blends scripted scenes, which mixes surprisingly well since the scenes that use these techniques are paced and acted well.
The improvisation used for this film was used on most of the scenes, which are used when the school children are with the main characters and make the film feel quite human and realistic. A great example of this technique is when all the school children are auditioning for the nativity play and each of them show off certain talents and actions that children usually do, which is very humorous and very natural to anyone watching. This is a much more polished attempt than Confetti with the children and the characteristics for all the characters in the film being opposites of each other.
For the scripted scenes, they were used for the flashback scenes and when the adult characters were talking with one another, which are introduced at the right moments in the story structure. An example is with Paul thinking about the events that lead to his hatred for the Christmas holidays and this does bring some dramatic effect into the film and makes the grumpy teacher more likable.
Although this is a very charming and innocent Christmas film, this isnít the best British Christmas film I have seen either. The reason why the film isnít as good as some previous films for the festive holiday is because some of the characters feel unneeded and the storyís structure wasnít as impacting as it couldíve been.
With Debbie Isitt behind the direction and the screenplay, she has written a simple and charming family story, but her story structure wasnít very good simply because there was some unnecessary scenes and the build-up to the nativity play was a little bit too long. There was a couple of scenes when a couple of the children were having a talk with their teacher and it felt quite useless since it had no effect on the story or how the characters developed from these discussions.
During the second half of the film, Isitt introduced secondary characters that felt like they didnít really have to be there. For example, Mayor (Ricky Tomlinson) only appears in two scenes for the maximum of three minutes and although it was understandable to have the character in the film, he didnít really have much affect either. Another character that felt a bit unnecessary was Critic (Alan Carr), who was used as the setting for the filmís story and although this is an important role for the set-up, the character didnít really need to appear in the later scenes.
With the Christmas holidays being a great opportunity to release family films, Nativity! is a lovely film to watch for the holidays and although it isnít going to be one of my favourite Christmas films, itís definitely one to watch during the holidays with the whole family.