THE NATIVITY STORY
starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Hiam Abbass, Shaun Toub
screenplay by Mike Rich
directed by Catherine Hardwicke
starring Shaun Ashmore, Stockard Channing, Olympa Dukakis, Lucy Liu
written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald
by Walter Chaw The nativity, consigned primarily in my imagination to bad children's pageants and gaudy lawn displays, gets a third image in my own private trinity with Catherine Hardwicke's The Nativity Story: a thunderously boring film so circumscribed in scope and crippled in execution that it's destined to be a minor hit fuelled by the line of buses stretching from your local bible chapel. It's another teen melodrama from Hardwicke, complete with disapproving adults and pregnant little girls batting doe-eyes at rough-and-tumble shepherds; you see Hardwicke occasionally attempting an anachronistic Fast Times at Golan Heights à la Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, but Coppola, for all her dips into self-pity, is a filmmaker of note, while Hardwicke is just beating someone else's drum on someone else's dime. (Proof positive is that despite the uniformity of Hardwicke's output across three identically-non-descript flicks, there is still no sense that decisions are being made, or that anything more than a sickly colony from a thin scrape across the John Hughes petri dish has been born.) Mary is played by young Maori actress Keisha Castle-Hughes--her race of note because if there's something important about the instantly forgotten pic, it's that its cast is comprised of people who look like people might have looked in Nazareth around two thousand years ago and not like Andy Gibb. A shame that Castle-Hughes is dreadful (and not helped a bit by another dreadful, pop-eyed screenplay courtesy Mike Rich of Radio and Finding Forrester fame) and that Oscar Isaac (as Joseph)--who is not dreadful--is trapped in this prosaic sinkhole. Tempting to use terms like "sanctimonious" and "smug," but The Nativity Story is more accurately dissected with the observation that it's a faithful telling of a story that has as its only purpose the drumming up of ecstatic anticipation for a foregone conclusion.