Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger! - DVD Review

'Mr. Poppy still grates every moment he’s on screen, but is now presented as both moderately sociopathic and disturbingly obsessed with absent former teacher Paul Maddens'

After departing from arguably the most successful tenure as the BBC’s resident Timelord since Tom Baker donned a fedora and elongated scarf, David Tennant’s big screen career hasn’t taken off in quite the way many had predicted. Whilst both his TV and stage plaudits have continued to grow and flourish, by contrast Tennant has barely made an impact either in Hollywood or in homegrown cinema, with only a couple of voice roles and a part in 2011’s poorly received Fright Night remake in the last few years. But, despite his lifetime membership of the “national treasure” club thanks to being the Tenth Doctor, Tennant needs to be a bit more careful when presented with roles in films like Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger! - it’s utter tripe like this that could knock his career seriously off-kilter for good.

Having brought us the unquestionably dodgy Nativity! in 2009, director Debbie Isitt apparently went ahead with this sequel without actually having any good ideas to put in it. In its opening moments, Nativity 2 sets out its flimsy structure and ludicrous plot that could be jotted down on the back of a Christmas cracker joke (which, incidentally, would be the closest this script could ever get to a laugh) as the film’s main concept is exposited through a primary school child reading aloud from a local newspaper. If you don’t recognise this as a clear forewarning of the very lowest level of craftsmanship Isitt will continually achieve throughout the rest of her film, then quite frankly you and Nativity 2 deserve each other.

Prepubescents appreciating the local press turns out to be just the first of many clues that Isitt’s film inhabits some warped version of our world, which on the surface may look very familiar but actually suspends all forms of basic logic, legal ramifications of characters’ actions, and indeed the possibility of anything being even remotely entertaining.

At the centre of this twisted world is repulsive man-child classroom assistant Desmond Poppy (Marc Wootton). Mr. Poppy firmly established himself as one of the most galling film characters of recent years in Nativity!, but Wootton and Isitt manage to take their creation to a whole new level here. Mr. Poppy still grates every moment he’s on screen, but is now presented as both moderately sociopathic and disturbingly obsessed with absent former teacher Paul Maddens, Martin Freeman’s character from the first film. The fact that Wootton’s character is in a position of responsibility, taking charge of young children throughout the film, might be intended to be funny but in reality is morbidly terrifying.

Isitt’s choice to make her film “improvised” - that is, shot without a completed script, directing the actors to make it up as they go along without informing them of where the story is headed - oozes from the film like sewage from a blocked drain. As Tennant and Wootton amble around the Welsh countryside with a group of primary school kids in Christmas fancy dress, a stolen donkey and an abandoned baby in tow, you’ll wonder just who involved in making Nativity 2 ever thought any of this was a good idea. It was around the time Mr. Poppy leads the group into a cave only to break into song about his paternal abandonment issues whilst playing a ukulele (really, this happens) that I lost all patience with all aspects of Isitt’s comprehensively condemnable film.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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