The Star Review

Overall Rating

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Grounded in a biblical worldview


Ranking Categories:
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance 4.5stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships 4.0stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations 4.5stars.png
Family Viewing Suitability 4.0stars.png
Entertainment Value 4.5stars.png
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Summary

In one of the most delightful faith-driven films of the year, THE STAR features an animated—and sweetly comic—storyline about the birth of Jesus as told through the eyes of the animals present in the manger. From Bo, a brave young donkey who dreams of a better life beyond the mill, to Ruth, the plucky sheep, and Dave, the wacky dove, THE STAR unites a diverse cast of animal characters—including dogs, camels, a horse, cow, hen, and mouse—who follow the star of Bethlehem and work together to thwart King Herod’s evil wiles and witness the greatest story ever told.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Affirm Films, Walden Media, The Jim Henson Company, and Franklin Entertainment, THE STAR is executive produced by DeVon Franklin and others, and is directed by Timothy Reckart. With a fun and rollicking screenplay—written by Carlos Kotkin (RIO 2), Tom Sheridan, and Simon Moore—THE STAR will likely resonate with both children and adults alike. And the film boasts a large cast with some big-time actors voicing key roles, including: Oprah Winfrey as Deborah the Camel; Christopher Plummer as King Herod; Kris Kristofferson as the Old Donkey; Mariah Carey as Rebecca the Hen; Patricia Heaton as Edith the Cow; Kristin Chenoweth as Abby the Mouse; Kelly Clarkson as Leah the Horse; Tracy Morgan as Felix the Camel, Tyler Perry as Cyrus the Camel; Joel Osteen as Caspar the Wise Man; Steven Yeun as Bo the Donkey; Keegan-Michael Key as Dave the Dove; Zachary Levi as Joseph; and Gina Rodriguez as Mary.


Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance

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While many of the details in this charming, animated tale about the first Christmas are extra-biblical, the core story of the Nativity is largely faithful to the biblical narrative. From the heralding angels and Joseph and Mary’s respective reactions to the news of her pregnancy, to their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, the arrival of the wise men from the East, King Herod’s desire to kill Jesus, and the worship of Jesus in the manger under the light of the guiding star, THE STAR creatively treats the Bible story with respect and boldly proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. 

Beyond this, THE STAR depicts Joseph praying to God for guidance and encouragement, and Mary reminds him that just because God has a plan, that doesn’t mean that it will be easy. And although Joseph is sometimes depicted as bumbling, he is nevertheless a man of his word who fully intends to do everything in his power to protect Mary and the baby.

Finally, several important theological themes are presented in subtle—but effective—ways that will resonate with both faith-driven and secular moviegoers alike. For example, Bo’s journey reminds us that we are all destined for a bigger purpose—the honor and privilege of “carrying the King” wherever we go. And THE STAR depicts redemption when Bo is set free and encouraged by the Old Donkey to “make it count.” Later, when the two bad dogs are set free from Herod’s henchman, they are invited into the manger to see the baby Jesus in a heart-warming depiction of grace. 


Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships

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While female characters in THE STAR are generally presented as wise and discerning—and male characters are sometimes shown to be incompetent for comic relief—the overall depiction of characters and their relationships is faith-compatible. Here, Joseph is a humble carpenter, who is a loyal, protective and self-sacrificing husband to Mary. And he is understandably anxious and uncertain about the extraordinary task before him as the earthly father to the Messiah. For her part, Mary is strong, confident and optimistic—bravely embracing her destiny and treating others with love and kindness. Significantly—in biblical references that will resonate with believers—she refers to her pre-born baby as “good news,” and then names the young donkey after the biblical redeemer kinsman, Boaz, or “Bo” for short.

In other parallels to the biblical narrative, the three wise men come with gifts from the East to bow down in worship before the newborn king, and contemptuous King Herod is determined to destroy Jesus—and any other threats to his power and authority in Judea.  

Among the animal characters, Dave the Dove is Bo’s wise-cracking best friend with a big personality—and a fondness for occasional sophomoric potty humor. In contrast, Ruth the Sheep is smart, fluffy and friendly—but separated from her flock after seeing the star and deciding to follow it. Other animals are also aware of the star and sense that something big is about to happen. They play various roles in moving the story forward, including a mouse who spills the beans about Joseph and Mary’s whereabouts, a slapstick trio of camels who do some undercover reconnaissance, and two bad dogs in service to Herod whose job is to find Jesus. 


Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations

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THE STAR opens in Nazareth nine months before the birth of Jesus when Abby the Mouse witnesses Mary’s angelic visitation and the angel’s return to heaven to become the star of Bethlehem. While this is clearly an extra-biblical detail, it sets the stage for a story line in which the wise men, shepherds and various animals are amazed at the heavenly sign and wonder about its meaning.

Meanwhile, a sweet and funny scene with Joseph waiting for Mary before their wedding feast unfolds, and the young and idealistic donkey Bo dreams of a better life carrying the king in the royal caravan. But after his ill-fated Operation Prison Break scheme falls flat, Bo finds himself re-shackled to the miller’s yoke—and discouraged by the jaded Old Donkey’s view that mill donkeys don’t carry kings. Eventually, however, Old Donkey has a change of heart and helps Bo escape—telling him to make the most of his freedom.

After Bo’s escape, he ends up at Joseph and Mary’s house where he breaks his leg and Mary splints it up to heal. When the time comes for Joseph and Mary to head to Bethlehem for the census, Bo refuses to let Joseph halter him for the journey, and instead initiates Operation Get Kicked Out so that he can continue pursuing his dream to join the royal caravan and one day carry the king. Frustrated with Bo’s antics, Joseph decides that Bo is more trouble than he’s worth and they leave for Bethlehem without him.

In the meantime, the three wise men have arrived at Herod’s palace looking for the newborn king, prompting a concerned Herod to dispatch one of his soldiers with two dogs to find the baby and kill him. When Abby the Mouse spills the beans on Joseph and Mary, the bulk of the story centers on their harrowing journey to Bethlehem, including Bo’s decision to find Joseph and Mary to warn them—with the help of the other animals—about the danger they face from the soldier and his two bad dogs. Along the way, there are many humorous and suspenseful scenes culminating in Joseph and Mary’s arrival to Bethlehem—a small village packed with Jews returning home for the census. Here, in a very sweet scene, Mary rides into town on Bo, who has the privilege of carrying not just any king—but the King of Kings—on his back.  

By now, Mary is ready to give birth, but there are no rooms available anywhere. Worse, Herod’s henchman and the two dogs have caught up with them—and the miller is also in town and recognizes Bo as his escaped donkey. From here, a series of fast-paced and engaging events unfold, resulting in Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, the three wise men, and the animals all converging upon the manger at the same time. Here, under the bright light of the star—and accompanied by the beautiful Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night”—all fall down in an emotionally powerful scene to worship Jesus.  

Family Viewing Suitability

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At 86 minutes in length, THE STAR is rated PG for some thematic elements, including a few minor and non-offensive instances of slapstick and potty humor. Overall, however, this film is suitable for the whole family with limited parental guidance. 


Entertainment Value

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THE STAR is a charming, fast-paced, light-hearted, funny and faithful telling of the Nativity story. With its clear message about Jesus as the reason for the season, its release just before Thanksgiving offers moviegoers a perfect way to kick off the holiday season with family and friends. There are many delightful and endearing scenes, and the Ancient Near East setting and thoroughly Jewish characters are very realistically rendered in the animation. An added bonus is the memorable soundtrack that will keep viewers humming long after the credits roll, including music by Jessie James Decker, Jake Owen, Kelsea Ballerini, Zara Larsson, Casting Crowns, Kirk Franklin, Mariah Carey, Yolanda Adams, Fifth Harmony, Saving Forever, and A Great Big World.  Overall, there is much to commend with THE STAR, and this fun and enjoyable animated film should resonate very well with both faith-driven and secular audiences alike—and with adults just as much as kids.  


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