Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger (U)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/11/2012

One out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Despite some decent songs and a supporting cast full of likeable scene-stealing moppets, this remains a dismal, poorly structured comedy sequel that's depressingly low on laughs.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Debbie Isitt (writer/director of the first film), Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger stars David Tennant as Donald Peterson, a teacher with a heavily pregnant wife (Joanna Page), who begins a new job at St Bernadette's primary school in Coventry and is immediately horrified by the wildly inappropriate antics of classroom assistant-slash-manchild Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton).

When Mr Poppy decides to take his class of scene-stealing moppets across the country to compete in the National Song For Christmas competition, Mr Peterson is unwillingly dragged along for the ride and when the bus breaks down, they're forced to make their own way there, picking up both a mystery baby and a magical donkey along the way.

Meanwhile, St Bernadette's rival Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) is also planning to enter his class in the Song for Christmas competition, as is Donald's ruthless, over-achieving twin brother Roderick (David Tennant again), who schemes with competition hostess Angel (Jessica Hynes) to make sure things go his way.

The Bad
As with both Confetti and the 2009 film, Nativity 2 is largely improvised throughout, with the actors given only a basic outline before each scene. This pays dividends when it comes to the naturalism of the children's performances (as they frequently make the kind of comedy mistakes that show up on Kids Say The Funniest Things), but the overall result is a frustrating lack of structure, with none of the disparate story elements gelling together and a final act that feels horribly cluttered.

Tennant does the best he can, but the nature of the plot means that he's required to pull an exasperated face for the majority of the film, which quickly wears thin. Similarly, the kids are a bunch of admittedly adorable scene-stealers and Jessica Hynes has some enjoyably caustic moments as Angel, but Marc Wootton's screeching, farting, permanently shrill Mr Poppy is one of the most intensely irritating characters in recent memory, while Watkins and Page are both largely wasted.

The Worse
The film's biggest problem is that it just isn't all that funny, with even the mildly amusing moments (such as the audition montage, reprised from the previous film) stretched out until they lose their appeal. The lack of script and structure also means that scenes constantly feel forced, particularly during the finale, which can't quite work out what to do with the twin adversaries of Mr Shakespeare and Donald's brother and ends up with at least three characters having sudden changes of heart without really earning those moments.

Worth seeing?
Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger has a handful of decent songs and an adorable child cast but it ultimately falls down thanks to a messy, structure-less script, a painful lack of laughs and a highly irritating performance from Marc Wootton.

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Content updated: 26/10/2014 01:18

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