Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!
dir-scr Debbie Isitt
prd Nick Jones
with Marc Wootton, Martin Clunes, Catherine Tate, Adam Garcia, Celia Imrie, Jason Watkins, Stewart Wright, Lauren Hobbs, Ben Wilby, Ralf Little, Susie Blake, Duncan Preston
release UK 14.Nov.14
14/UK 1h49
Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?!
Taste the season: Wootton, Clunes and the kids

tate garcia imrie
See also:
Nativity! (2009) Nativity: Danger in the Manger! (2012)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?! And so the wacky little British Christmas romp becomes a franchise. After the second movie improved on the first, this third installation shows writer-director Isitt finding her stride: a mix of idiotic slapstick and more deranged wit that keeps children giggling helplessly and adults mildly amused. It's not terrible, but it's all rather slapdash, with gaping holes in the corny plot as well as some genuine hilarity.

St Bernadette's School in Coventry has a new headmistress in Mrs Keen (Imrie), who immediately sacks the man-child teaching assistant Mr Poppy (Wootton). Then the new teacher, Mr Shepherd (Clunes), gets rid of Poppy's donkey, the class mascot. Shepherd is preparing for his marriage to Sophie (Tate) in New York and, as coincidence would have it, the wedding coincides with a flashmob competition run by Sophie's smarmy ex Bradley (Garcia). When Shepherd loses his memory, his sparky daughter Lauren (Hobbs) teams up with Poppy to use the competition to get to the wedding.

The plot is breathlessly bereft of logic, with a string of events that are absurdly implausible. But Isitt keeps the film so hyperactive that kids might not notice. The comedy assault is relentless: broad physicality, dopey goofiness and riotously warped dialog bombard the audience into submission. So the odd joke can't help but hit its mark, and the nonstop barrage never allows time to worry about the gaping holes in the story.

Like Martin Freeman in part 1 and David Tenant in part 2, Clunes dives full-on into the lunacy, fearlessly making a buffoon of himself as the amnesiac with huge ears who begins dressing like an elf. Wootton continues with his nutty turn as the wildly manic but only occasionally amusing Poppy, while Tate plays it relatively straight as the woman who can't quite make sense of why her world is falling apart around her. She even gets a few strongly dramatic scenes.

Everyone breaks into song along the way, and most of the numbers are pretty painful (mainly due to the screechy vocals), but sheer repetition makes the tunes almost hummable. And while the flashmob theme feels achingly uncool, the movie as a whole has a warm-hearted momentum that almost manages to stir some emotional energy into the massive farcical finale. It's not quite as shamelessly enjoyable as the previous film, but it doesn't leave us quivering in fear about a potential part 4.

cert u themes, some innuendo 2.Nov.14

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