Last weekend, we took three of our grandsons to see “The Star” at a Winnipeg movie theater.
This animated movie offers a playful retelling of Jesus’ nativity as seen from the animals’ point of view. A small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. Thanks to the assistance of his old father and the encouragement of his friend Dave the dove, Bo finds the courage to break free and to set off on the adventure of his dreams. Along his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock. Three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals join the cast as Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told - the first Christmas.
From the opening scene, set in “Nine Months BC,” when I heard Pentatonix singing Carol of the Bells, I decided “this is gonna be good!” The music alone makes it worth the admission price—featuring well-known artists like Mariah Carey and Casting Crowns.
Among the many voices provided for the colorful characters, the ones most familiar to me were Steven Yeun, Kelly Clarkson, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Kris Kristofferson, and Christopher Plummer.
Obviously, the producers of this movie have taken liberties with the biblical narrative. The disclaimer at the end states their desire to maintain the spirit of the story: redemption and grace. For me, two “spirit of the story” moments stand out.
The first happened after the little donkey, who has always longed to do something important, abandons Mary and Joseph to chase after his lifelong dream of joining the royal caravan. We, too, become easily distracted by “royal caravans” in our lives, not the least of which is Christmas itself. Getting caught up in the shopping, decorating, baking, and Santa Claus—all divert us from what’s truly important. We find myriads of ways to chase after superficial time-wasters the rest of the year, as well.
At the last minute, Bo realizes the royal caravan won’t bring him true joy, and he returns to the people he has come to love. In the end, of course, he understands he has been carrying the King of kings all along.
The second moment involves the redemption of the bully dogs. Thaddeus and Rufus have been aiding King Herod’s henchman on his deadly hunt for Mary’s baby through the entire story. When the other animals rescue the dogs from a certain death and break their chains, the dogs slink into the stable where Jesus has been born. Reformed by the miracle, they want to see the baby, too. At first, the other animals try to block their path. Then Deborah the camel says, “let them come.”
The dogs bow before Messiah. Rufus asks, “Are we good now?”
Thaddeus replies, “We have to try.”
Thaddeus still doesn’t quite get it. If we could make ourselves good by trying, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He alone can take our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. There is no try. There is only mercy and grace.
I highly recommend seeing this movie with your kids and discussing it afterwards. Plenty of laugh-out-loud lines, heart-racing events, and touching moments make it well worth your investment.