Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger
If, while watching Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger, you begin to feel an immense pressure behind your eyes, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably not a tumour. It’s your sanity cracking. Any length of time spent basking in the malevolent glow of Nativity 2 will haunt you in the empty halls of your shattered psyche forever. The film promotes such a warped view of the world, with so many unhealthy life lessons for a naive and vulnerable mind, that the likelihood of Nativity 2 mutilating your child’s ego is enormous. Prepare yourselves, England. If this film garners enough saturation it will be but a few short years until our society is replete with sociopaths.
There is, in fact, a plot of sorts. Since the first film (Nativity!), Martin Freeman has left St. Bernadette’s Primary School, leaving his class in the frankly inappropriate hands of “teacher’s assistant” Mr. Poppy (Mark Wootton). The new teacher for the class is Mr. Peterson (David Tennant) who is expecting a baby with his blushing bride (Joanna Page). Mr Poppy becomes enamored with the National song for Christmas contest, in which a number of schools compete in an X Factor-style sing-off for “a chance at the no. 1 spot”. Mr Peterson is quickly kidnapped by Mr. Poppy and the class, and is taken off to Wales for the competition, in which his identical twin broth Rodrick (David Tennant again) is also competing.
Nativity! was a well regarded film considering it was aimed at kids. It was simple silly fun that appealed to both children and their parents. The makers of the sequel have tried to replicate the magic of the first film, and have failed, miserably. Like a lot of British film follow-ups, whether it be a sequel or based on a television series, there is the bewildering motivation to take the characters on the road, so to speak. The tragic The Inbetweeners Movie is evidence enough of how this can go wrong. In the case of Nativity 2, the brief time spent in the primary school, whilst not particularly engaging, is just about bearable. When Mr. Poppy decides to tie Mr. Peterson up with scarves (the toughest material known to man) and drags him and the class to Wales, the film completely loses its marbles. Thus begins a 45 minute sequence of bored children walking around the miserable Welsh countryside. Not being funny is the least of the crimes committed here.
Mr. Poppy rapidly comes to represent everything wrong with this film, and everything wrong in this world. He far surpasses any other Man-Child: even Adam Sandler can only look on in wonder and derision at his deformed mind. Everything about him grates: his continually contorted face that could turn milk sour, his encouragement of the children to perform stupid and dangerous acts, his determination to send them to their doom down white water rapids, his stupid little ukelele. The uke appears in the most nauseating sequence in the entire film, as he leads the children into a cave (WHY!?) and performs a song about being abandoned by one’s father, all auto-tuned to the extreme. Such a sensitive subject matter, surrounded by this mire of misery, has no place in this film. It isn’t there character development, it isn’t a warm supportive message for abandoned children, it isn’t appropriate.
You may actually find yourself laughing at certain moments in the film. In all likelihood it won’t be from any humour present in Nativity 2, it will be from hysterical derision when you realise this film has more in common with Invasion of the Body Snatchers than any Christmas film.
“I’m not going to throw these kids off a cliff!”
“We can do it, Mr. Peterson!”
“There’s no way-”
“We can do it!”
“WE CAN DO IT.”
“No, please stop-”
“SUBMIT HUMAN. THERE IS NO STOPPING THIS. THROW THIS BABY OFF THE CLIFF.”
All of this occurs before the class even gets to the Song for Christmas competition, which is better by degrees. The songs are awful, but a couple jokes here and there aren’t so bad, such as David Tennant playing his own evil twin. The children are not nearly as awful as Mr. Poppy – their blank stares and flat delivery are what you’d expect, it’s just that everything is so damn boring. There’s no guessing what writer/director Debbie Isitt was going for here. The majority of the film is so appallingly dull that it certainly won’t occupy a child for long. Kudos to David Tennant and Mark Wootton for trying, kudos for the kids for trying, kudos to all the crew for trying, but professional integrity demands more than a commendation for effort. Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger is a repugnant film.