Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger review

Review Caroline Preece 13 Nov 2012 - 13:59

David Tennant takes over lead roles from Martin Freeman in the sequel to Nativity. Here's our review...

There’s a mounting cynicism to modern children’s films that, while probably always there in some form, has started to creep into my view of movies overtly aimed at a young audience (discounting eighty per cent of animated films). I thus went into Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger, a sequel no less, with minimal expectation that it would change my mind, Even with David Tennant joining the cast. I’m very happy to report, then, that the film is actually a lovely slice of Christmas entertainment that hasn’t a bad bone in its body. Like the first film, starring a now-departed Martin Freeman, this is something you can take your kids to with a clear conscience, and the parents may even enjoy the 105-minute holiday from reality it offers.

As mentioned, with Martin Freeman trekking across Middle Earth this Christmas, David Tennant has stepped up to the role of put-upon teacher Donald Peterson, who signs on to teach Mr Poppy’s (Marc Wootton) class at St Bernadette’s. With a year’s worth of teachers coming and going, Mr Poppy and the class are a team of underdeveloped troublemakers, dedicated to making life incredibly difficult for the new man in charge. Keen to make a go of things for the sake of his heavily pregnant wife (Joanna Page), he’s brought on side for a ‘Song for Christmas’ competition that the headmistress (Pam Ferris) has forbidden them to enter.

Things from here descend into good-natured chaos, as the film uses all of the obvious talent show parodies across the audition process and beyond. Tennant gives his best exasperated face, as he’s somewhat unwillingly brought along for Mr Poppy’s crazy plan, and the kids are charming. The joke at this stage is that St Bernadette’s are a talentless bunch. In contrast, the competition from neighbouring entrants is strong, one of which is led my Donald’s estranged twin brother, Roderick. This, of course, means double David Tennant for your money, and there’s rarely a scene in the film that doesn’t feature the actor in some capacity.  It also provides plenty of opportunity for mistaken identity hijinks later on, which is always a winner for young audiences.

With the demographic-crossing appeal of a former Doctor in their arsenal, Wootton’s returning teaching assistant is used purely to entertain the young-uns, and results are mixed. Given that I’m well over the age his fart and poo jokes are aiming for, I’ll leave my criticism as vague as that. That said, nothing in this film insults anyone’s intelligence, and there’s actually a good mix of jokes suitable for all, but designed to hit different people with varying intensity. The eventual talent contest is shown almost in its entirety, and is an unexpectedly razor sharp parody of various light-entertainment shows airing in the UK right now. There’s a Justin Bieber-esque kid and a group of private school children singing about poverty, just to give you a taste.

But, before they get there, there’s a fairly epic journey across the mountainous Welsh countryside, with a magic donkey, a bus that turns into a boat, and a stolen baby no one’s sure belongs to anyone in the group. Parents will get a kick out of Tennant’s increasingly frantic reaction to the madness of it all, before he resigns himself to the situation and stops continuously shouting. If nothing else, this big middle of the film is a great advert for Wales, with a lot of beautiful countryside and a picturesque castle just a couple of the inviting images we’re treated to. Amazingly, despite spending most of the running time in the company of children, a man-child, and one maddened teacher, no character becomes incredibly annoying.

As you’d expect from a Christmas-themed sequel, semi-improvised by the adults and kids alike, only about half of the film works. But those bits that make you smile and those bits that make you role your eyes are all mixed in together is a mess of entertainingly chaotic family fun, meaning the end is just as strong as the film’s beginning. It’s in no way perfect, and I doubt it’ll become a Crimbo classic, but everyone looks as if they’re enjoying themselves. You probably will, too.

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The great parts just keep coming post Dr Who...

Yep dont they though! Heheheheheh Bet he wishes he had stayed on for another couple of seasons now. I like him though. You cant help liking him. Remember Christmas 2009 when he was leaving Doctor Who, and he was on EVERYTHING the BBC did that year? From popping up on chat shows, to being in the Catherine Twits Christmas Special. He said at the time it was his scorched earth policy and it sort of came true but not in the way he wanted. Frightnight flopped, Rex is not my Lawyer never got off the ground (how the hell they would make a series out of that idea I will never know...) and so he came back to the uk to do a few dismal depressing dramas, and has cropped up as Jedi Robot on Clone Wars! I really wanted him to do well. The wife and I loved the first Nativity film, so we will give this a go too. I just hope he has the sense to be involved in the 50th of Doctor Who next year. Look at Mat Smith...he has managed to make Doctor Who popular in America again. I can only hope he is watching the post Who career of Mr T and thinking to himself about now..."I am on a good thing here...its really taking off...I think I will do a couple more seasons as I dont want to end up like David Tennant..."
Now before anyone jumps down my throat and starts mocking me, remember I said I really like David Tennant! I just think he was stupid to leave Doctor Who so soon, and I said he might regret it later. But then if he had not left we would not have got Mat Smith so whats a Who fan to do? Happy Christmas David Tennant and I look forward to seeing you in more films....I hope.

Agreed. He was foolish to leave as (from a career view) his exposure in the states via Who was just starting. One of the things about Dr Who is that it's stars often can be quite snobby about it. In the classic days rightly so. Peter Davison was right to move on. Back then there was plenty of homegrown drama being produced. Not now. Tennant had had a few dreary forgettable vehicles that have excited no one. He hasn't gone stateside like his predecessor and I like you want to see him in something really good. Because he's great. I bet he never wished back in 2008 that he'd be sitting by the phone praying that Dr Who would ring him up for the anniversary episode though? Part of me wonders if he'd ever go back? The 10th Doctor was unique in really not wanting to go. What if he were to force his way back for the next regeneration. I'd be up for it!

Yes indeed! Peter Davidson wished he had done another season and changed his mind about leaving half way through his last run. But it was too late and his replacement was already cast. Imagine Mat Smith and David T in Doctor Who together for the 50th! Heheh and all the time you know Tennant will be thinking in some tiny corner of his mind...."Damn I am enjoying this again...I wish I had not left!" You know who I blame for it? Shakespear! He was off doing Shakespear and got the whole delusions of grandeur thing that actors seem to get when performing his stuff. Everyone was raving about him doing Hamlet or whatever it was, then when we finally got to see it on Tv, I was bored stiff by it in about 15 minutes. He was good in it though, its just that it was...erm dull and Shakespear and its not for everyone. I hated it at school, even though I was good at english etc. So Tennant does the Shakespear gig and all that Christmas stuff and gets drunk on himself and off he goes to the States...I know he is not in love with himself really, he always comes across as a lovely fellow in interviews and is game for a laugh and will do anything to keep the fans happy. I really respect him for that. I just want to see him in some more good stuff, not miserable "I am getting divorced from you and splitting the family.." type dramas. They are just boring and depressing...whats he going to turn up in next I wonder? Eastenders? I dont know..talk about career rollercosters....Blackpool drama, to Casanova, to Doctor Who, to erm...whoops, missfire, fail, crap film, boring drama...bit part here, bit part there, voiceover work in Pirates , Clonewars....and so on. Its not like Christopher Ecclestone has done a lot of stuff in the States either...bit part in Heroes, now cancelled, crap villain in G.I Joe, then back to doing stuff like Pod in the Borrowers and the tedious boring depressing kitchen sink dramas too...Actors eh? Thing is after Doctor Who, where do you go? Nothing else on brit tv gets that kind of exposure or coverage, and when its popular you know the work is steady and you will be famous and loved. And they go and give it all up to do something different for the sake of it, and end up with not very much. You never know he might regenerate into himself again, anything is possible! If anyone could do it and get away with it , it would be him. Peter Davidson went to early, so did David Tennant, I just hope Mat Smith is listening and does not make the same mistake.

Tennant was actually quite good in the overall mildly entertaining Fright Night. Shame it flopped.

He's also a regular on CBBC show Tree-Fu Tom alongside Sophie Aldred. It's something, eh?

He does a lot of voice overs too. Miss him as the Dr. I felt that Matt Smith's almost autistic take was a reaction against the emotional and balanced version of DT. Going off topic I'd like an oldish Dr, for 12. In his 50s/60s.

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