Monday, 21 December 2015

Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger (2012)



Oh dear. It was as bad as I imagined.

The first Nativity film was hardly a masterpiece; it barely gelled together and its story and characters were both ridiculously over the top, but it had a certain winning charm which makes it a minor festive treat for all the family every Christmas. Debbie Isitt's return to the manger loses all of that charm but ratchets up all of the flaws to beyond tolerance levels. But then the fact remains abundantly clear that its sequel isn't really aimed at adults at all, it is - unlike Nativity, which was for the whole family and delivered in that respect - solely for children in the audience and, to its credit, it is unpretentious and unapologetic in its delivery.  I can't say for certain if it entertains infants, but I can say it did not entertain me no matter how much disbelief I managed to suspend.

There's no nativity this year (surely trades descriptions should be informed of the misleading title?) so instead, the plot concerns itself with the Song for Christmas competition, which crazy teaching assistant, Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton) is hellbent on entering the kids for. There's also no Martin Freeman, which means we have to endure David Tennant as the nice guy teacher who finds himself beleaguered but ultimately won over by Poppy's childlike obsessional enthusiasm. I really feel for Tennant, away from Doctor Who (with the exception of Broadchurch) he's really struggled and his film career has been little more than embarrassing. First St Trinian's 2 and The Decoy Bride, now this? Even worse he's saddled with the most creaky film device, that of the evil twin. 


Back into the mix is the school's rival, the pretentious Mr Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) from the local independent school for poshos, though frankly what brought Watkins back I have no idea. He's better than this - though some of the dialogue he has to deliver would test the greatest of actors (witness the scene where he has to tell Tennant's kids to go on instead of his lot; terrible) Ditto Jessica Hynes who turns up as the competition's host, a Charlotte Church style, waning Welsh pop star who I'm presuming is there as comic relief for the older members, the mums and dads, of the audience but who resolutely falls flat. 

But the major problem with this film is Marc Wootton's ridiculous Mr Poppy, a man who would never pass a CRB check to be anywhere near these schools. The character was always a little weird and could conceivably veer towards sinister than the intended Dick and Dom style fun, but he really goes overboard here placing the children, whom he abducts, in great danger and yet he's perceived as being justified and OK for doing that, when in the real world he'd be the Most Hated figure in the country thanks to dozens of justifiably damning tabloid write ups. A CHILD NEARLY DIES FOR FUCK'S SAKE! You can almost hear the news report and the statements from Mountain Rescue and the police. It's just too big an ask to suspend your disbelief this time around and what could be one of the winning ingredients in the film actually works against it.


Like the first film, the child actors are given their usual cutesy moments, funny auditions and silly dialogue but it resolutely fails to uplift the film beyond being the ill advised, peculiar mess it was always going to be. It's proof that bigger is not better when it comes to sequels and it's not funny, it's not cute, it's not even particularly festive, and it's not humbug to say any of that.

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