Outside of a few random Veggie Tales specials, Christian families don’t have a lot of options when it comes to animated Christmas theme films. Sure, The Grinch, Rudolph and Frosty are fun, but they don’t exactly reinforce the reason for the season. The Star successfully helps to fill that void with a fun adventure for children with a message that will resonate with parents.
Set nine months before the birth of Christ, The Star takes a unique approach to the arrival of the future Messiah through the perspective of animals. Bo (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead) is a donkey with grand dreams of being part of the royal caravan with his dove pal, Dave (Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu).
Little does Bo know a random encounter with Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and Joseph (Zachary Levi) will set him on a more important adventure than he could ever imagine. Along with their new sheep buddy Ruth (Aidy Bryant), Bo and Dave unexpectedly have to do their part to prevent King Herod’s assassin from killing Mary and her baby.
That’s pretty dark for an animated film. Screenwriter Carlos Kotkin offsets that serious tone emphasizing the animals’ ‘behind the scenes’ role in protecting Jesus. Occasionally, the story gets a little silly, but The Star is geared toward younger audiences. Older viewers won’t find too many cringing moments as there’s a lot of good laughs and funny scenes.
Maybe the best part of the film is that Kotkin tells the story without compromising scripture. Focusing on the animals allows for a fun different perspective on Jesus’ birth. And who’s to say a donkey, a dove and sheep couldn’t be used to help make sure the first Christmas went exactly as planned?
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The animation is incredibly lifelike. Every year CGI seems to improve, but The Star really features some amazing work. I love how different the animal’s fur textures look. Not just from donkey to camels, but camel to camel and dog to dog. The attention to detail is impressive. Other elements like hay and dirt look real enough to touch.
Helping to keep the tone fun and light is an impressive voice cast including Ving Rhames, Christopher Plummer, Mariah Carey, Anthony Anderson, Patricia Heaton, Kelly Clarkson and Tyler Perry. With the exception of Oprah Winfrey and Tracy Morgan, whose distinct voices stand out, the cast easily hides behind their characters.
Thanks to a brief 83 minute run time, The Star doesn’t wear out its welcome. The Star is a sweet, funny and creative take on the first Christmas and it’s charming enough to be part of the annual traditions for families.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Sony Animation