Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!
dir-scr Debbie Isitt
prd Nick Jones
with David Tennant, Marc Wootton, Pam Ferris, Jason Watkins, Joanna Page, Ian McNeice, Jessica Hynes, Ben Wilby, Sam Young, Eleanor Grant, Ethan Smith, Scott Folan
release UK 23.Nov.12
12/UK 1h45
Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!
A child shall lead them: Tennant and Wootton with the kids

ferris watkins hynes
See also:
Nativity! (2009) Nativity 3 (2014)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger! Carrying on where 2009's wacky comedy left off, this sequel shows that writer-director Isitt still has goofy slapstick on the mind, but this time she also finds ways to win us over not only by refusing to take things seriously, but by making sure we're in on the joke.

Idiot teaching assistant Mr Poppy (Wootton) has driven away each candidate for the teacher's job at the Coventry school where he works for his headmistress aunt (Ferris). Then Mr Peterson (Tennant) arrives with a pregnant wife (Page) and determination to stick it out. But it's quite a trial, especially since Poppy has secretly entered the children in the Song for Christmas competition at a castle in Wales, challenging posh-school rival Mr Shakespeare (Watkins) as well as Peterson's estranged twin brother Roderick (also Tennant), a snobby composer with a professional choir.

Of course, on the road to Wales, everything goes spectacularly wrong in an escalating run of madcap slapstick that, at about the halfway point, crosses over into nutty fantasy, which kind of lets us relax and go along for the ride. It helps that we are already chuckling at the X Factor-style auditions of these adorable overachieving children. And while Poppy's ineptness and Shakespeare's aggressiveness are never remotely amusing, at least Wootton and Watkins get some personality in there to keep us invested in the predictable outcome.

Unusually, as things get increasingly chaotic, more jokes make us laugh. The final competition sequence is hilarious, as each choir group does a Christmas song in a witty pastiche style, making us want a copy of the soundtrack for the holidays. Some of them are criminally catchy tunes, performed with energy and charm by a mob of talented kids. And the show is hosted with not-so-veiled contempt by the terrific Hynes as a B-list star.

Yes, everything is far too broad and ridiculous. And there is so much irresponsible behaviour in this film that you might want to think twice about taking young children to see it. But kids will love it. And you might find yourself able to identify with Tennant's well-played exasperation as he's dragged into the insanity, only to be won over when he sees that maybe the best way to enjoy life's wackiness is to stop fighting and just go with it.

cert u themes, some vulgarity 9.Sep.12

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