“You can be our Justin Bieber”
After being pleasantly surprised by how much fun Nativity was, it seemed only natural to watch the sequel Nativity 2 – Danger in the Manger when it appeared in the festive TV schedule too. Sad to say it didn’t live up to its predecessor, its attempts to replicate the formula losing much of the charm that made the first movie something of a real treasure. Writer and director Debbie Isitt returned to the improvised style that saw her company of kids and adults work without a script or advance knowledge of how the plot would unfold, but the problem lies in that uninspired narrative.
We’re still at St Bernadette’s, but Martin Freeman’s Mr Maddens has been replaced by David Tennant’s Mr Peterson, the school nativity has been replaced by a national ‘Song for Christmas’ competition and Marc Wootton’s irrepressible teaching assistant Mr Poppy remains very much in situ. And it is the nonsense that his actions provokes that proves the tipping point here – from purloined babies and donkeys to reckless child endangerment and the very fact that he’s teaching a class alone, Poppy’s character is a huge ask even when not taking it too seriously and for me, he was too grating too often.
And as the plot shifts into a bizarre, illicit school trip to Wales, there’s a real sense of aimlessness to the film, of time just being filled unnecessarily and unfortunately without any real humour to compensate. By the time we get the climax of the competition’s finale with its various entries (including a returning Jason Watkins at the head of local rivals Oakmoor and Tennant playing an evil twin brother for Peterson, also aiming for the prize), the unbelievable nature of the whole escapade just becomes wearying, even if it is nice to see Stratford’s Courtyard Theatre in use.
Jessica Hynes is good fun as a diva-esque compere, and Pam Ferris is likeable as the harried headteacher but everything that I liked about the first film is either missing or in short supply here – the score lacks the same sense of charm, the delicacy around exploring the lives of the primary schoolchildren is junked in favour of white water rafting thrills and the sentimentality of the overlong ending will stick in even the most festive of throats.