The Nativity Story Catherine Hardwicke

I don’t know what lunatic decided to turn the director of Thirteen loose on some unsuspecting scripture but the damage is done: The Nativity Story is one of the year’s most howlingly bad movies. A benumbed Keisha Castle-Hughes has the thankless task of playing Mary, who has some ’splainin to do once she finds herself pregnant with the son of God. Meanwhile, Oscar Isaac as Joseph has the equally difficult mission of randomly changing his expression to compensate for his co-star’s impassivity. Not that either of them can triumph over Mike Rich’s atrocious screenplay, which takes more than a few detours from The Bible to "fill out the characters” in ways too ludicrous to enumerate here. I have no objection to embellishing holy writ but you’d better be really clever about it and not, say, play the three wise men off for comic relief. That’s right, it’s Balthazar, Melchior and Shemp. Clearly trying to horn in on Mel Gibson’s constituency, the film is at once slavishly imitative of a certain passion of the Christ and hopelessly unwilling to deliver its self-flagellant goods. Though it tries to deflect criticism by flaunting its Jewish-ness (resulting, so help me God, in a circumcision scene complete with flinching boys), its muted palette and self-seriousness could only have come from one place. But it’s no contest: as hateful as Mel’s folly was, it had conviction and genuine religious feeling, qualities that this movie lacks in spades. Instead, it sucks whatever pleasure you might have had from the endless camp and leaves you with a dry husk that will have the faithful shaking their fists and the rest of us stunned into stupefaction. (Alliance Atlantis)