The new film, The Nativity Story, is what a Sunday School Christmas pagaent would look like if a church had a big budget, adults in the key roles, and attempted to stretch the brief story told in less then 100 verses in the Bible to 101 minutes of film. I have often said that only organized religion could drain the excitement from "the greatest story ever told" but this film proves that Hollywood can do the same thing. It appears as if the film makers used their local Sunday School pagaent as a template for the costumes and dialogue of the one dimensional characters. Just as in any pageant, the three Wise Men appear immediately following Jesus' birth rather then some considerable time later as Matthew reports in his Gospel. Creative lisence is used to develop the three Magi as comic relief. We experience scene after scene of said Magi trekking across the desert and bantering with one another.
Having said all this, is the film worth seeing? Yes, I believe it is. The location filming is beautiful and authentic looking. The scenes of daily life are, I believe, quite accurate. Herod's paranoia and evil are dramatically portrayed. The young actress who plays Mary, Keisha Castle-Hughes, last seen in "Whale Rider, is believable. Unfortunately, most of the other characters are played as Biblical cardboard cutouts reading their lines. I believe the creators of this film missed an opportunity to humanize the characters while at the same time staying true to the Biblical account. "The Nativity Story" doesn't thrill and it should.