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The Nativity Story

Too reverent for its own good
By BROOKE HOLGERSON  |  November 29, 2006
2.0 2.0 Stars

This straight retelling of the birth of Jesus is like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ with less violence and more Heavenly backlighting. Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Mary as an unflappable teen who’s not sure she likes Joseph (their marriage is arranged by her father) but takes only a moment to reflect when the Archangel Gabriel informs her she’s been chosen by God. (If you’ve ever wondered how the Virgin Birth works, apparently some wind blows through the trees and you’re pregnant.) Director Catherine Hardwicke (the teens-gone-wild drama Thirteen) grounds her story in the relationship between Mary and Joseph (Oscar Isaac) and their struggle to reach Bethlehem before Mary gives birth. The emphasis on the usually ignored parents of Jesus is a noble gesture, but they’re too saintly to generate much heat. Some of Thirteen’s rebellious spark would have been welcome here — as earnest as Sunday School, Nativity Story is too reverent for its own good.

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