I feel a bit like Scrooge writing this, I almost didn’t commit fingers to keyboard, but then I thought that I would be betraying the ethos of The Bad Christmas Movie Challenge. Only the very worst will do and Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey is not a good movie on any level.
All three of the Nativity movies have been made in support of Children In Need, a worthwhile cause that helps millions of at-risk Children every single year. I am all for supporting Children In Need, let me be clear about that. You can pledge money to this year’s fundraiser in a multitude of ways or via this BBC link. Now that I have attempted to make myself feel less like a monster, last year’s Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey was a creative low for the series and perhaps for the British Film Industry as a whole.
In keeping with the tradition of a new lead character in each movie, David Tennant has regenerated into the grumpier Martin Clunes. Riffing on his comfy chair persona as Doc Martin his role as teacher Jeremy Shepherd is not much of a stretch and even he has trouble staying awake. Prepare the cliche-o-meter, Jeremy loses him memory and forgets why he loves Christmas. As if that tawdry excuse for a plot wasn’t bad enough, the school nativity has lost its beloved donkey, and they need to find it pronto to save the show.
To their credit, the affable kids do their best with the material, and I’m sure everybody had a jolly nice time making the movie, so it’s a shame none of that enjoyment translated to the end product. The improv gimmick might have worked okay first time round, less so second time around and for the third go, some of the cast look uncomfortable with the free reign. Part of the problem with this lazy sequel is it doesn’t have the charms of Martin Freeman or David Tennant to fall back on. Martin Clunes might be edging towards national treasure status for some, but he can’t carry a feature film with his bedside manner. Only Catherine Tate walks away with a shred of dignity, but Marc Wooton’s unbearable Mr Poppy is dialled up to eleven, and his zany antics quickly become irritating.
Had Nativity 3 been a TV special then you could look past its ‘that’ll do’ approach to filmmaking as nothing about this second sequel belongs on the big screen. I know that people watch movies (or content as you crazy kids are calling it) on their phones, but there isn’t a screen small enough to make Nativity feel like a cinematic experience. By all means support Children in Need, dress up, have a bath in beans, go on a fun run, bake a cake, but please stop making Nativity sequels. I’ll pay.
Nativity 3 might be the best bad Christmas movie I’ve watched so far, but that statement is far from complimentary. Right, I’m off to be visited by three ghosts to mend my hateful ways.