out of Five
Running time: 105
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.
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
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 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.
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.