In Sony Pictures Animation's THE STAR, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told - the first Christmas. Written by
The Message and Family Fun Shine Bright, But Better Suited To Direct Release
The spirit of Christmas a common theme of movie around this time of year trying to teach us the main reason we get a vacation and give gifts in December. And about every five years, we get the retelling of the first Christmas that brought with it hope, grace, and salvation from how horrible of people we are. This weekend that retelling comes through again, but this time from the perspective of the animals and what they went through that fateful night. Robbie K here with a review on the Star, an animated movie that hopes to shine bright in this weekend of big releases. What's in store? Read on to find out my friends!
Good animation: With the age of computers, you expect fluid animation, and the Star doesn't disappoint. The animal movements are excellent examples of anatomical study, capturing the foot, neck, muzzle, or whatever other body part you want your animal to move in an accurate manner. In addition, the designers do a nice job of anthropomorphizing the animals as well, creating a hybrid of personalities that are fun to watch. And while your either admiring, or ignoring the animation, you can be sure that your little one will be stoked to see the characters clumsy antics and slapstick humor result in a laughable adventure.
The Voice Acting: While acting in full form is a highly challenging task to try to accomplish, there is something to be said about the art of voice acting. The assembled cast gets two thumbs up for me in their ability to bring the simplistic animal roles to life with semi-memorable characters. There are too many characters to name, but Steven Yeun as the main character carried a heavy load as the adventurous, yet stubborn donkey Bo who was a fun character to watch. Keegan-Michael Key was another welcome addition to the cast, his solid comedic delivery perfect for the comical character of Dave the Dove whose quips have been diluted down for the kid friendly atmosphere of this movie. However, my favorite character was the camel Felix, Tracy Morgan who had the most zany, crazy, and comedic punch of the whole movie with his sarcasm and sheer idiocy. All in all, they do their parts well, and create that wholesome family feeling.
Artistic Tale of Christmas: When it comes to religious and kid's movie, it can be difficult to find the balance that lays between cheesy, annoying, and of overzealous religious zeal. Fortunately, the Star was able to accomplish this goal to the point that it delivers the manner in a heartfelt way without falling into Hallmark sappiness territory. The Star maintains its cute, slapstick tones throughout the whole movie up to the predictable ending that we all know is coming. And when that climax occurs, it somehow delivers the powerful message and keeps things fun, which isn't easy given the imbalance that plagues the cinematic world. Nevertheless, this movie has an art to its delivery, which nets points in my book.
Character Use: The Star is another example of jumping the gun and hiring too many actors for a limited cast. While there are a few characters, Bo, Dave, and the wolves, who get an adequate amount of screen time on camera, many of the characters are reduced to unnecessary cameos that serve little purpose. The Field Mouse, the random goat, even the bad king himself are just expensive shout outs that could have been used towards developing a stronger story. Hollywood may be doing favors for the friends, but this reviewer found much of the characters a waste of time.
The story: Before you shout blasphemy towards me, I don't hate the first Christmas story, far from it. What I mean in this dislike is how bare the story felt in this telling. It's one geared towards kids, doing little to curtail the story to adults, which limits its entertainment purposes for a variety of people. Yes, I get it, it's a kid's movie, but think of how well Pixar can cater to both audiences and get the job done. The Star's message is great, the package is cute, but it's limited in the audience members it can truly entertain.
The animation. Other major studios know that every detail is important in animation. While Bo and the main characters movements look great, the rest of the characters (primarily the secondary background characters) walk stiff or are limited in their movements. While a minor dislike to some, this reviewer has developed an eye for world building, and the Star kind of failed on that level for me. Biblical times may not have been the mega city behemoths of the modern world, but I'm pretty sure it had more splendor than this movie made it out to be. The Star seemed to cut costs on this movie where it could, unfortunately making the world succumb to characters caught in mundane worlds.
The Star is cute, it's spiritual, and it is one of the most family friendly movies of the entire year to bring your little ones too. With good primary animation, voice acting that is energetic and fun presentation, this is a Christmas story I can get on board with. However, this studio dropped the ball on using their characters and world building, cutting corners to give a simplistic presentation that is dull compared to Disney's worlds. In addition, the limited audience entertainment faction is also a strike against a tale that held much potential. The Star is good for a church group to go to, but it's place would have been better in a direct release film in my opinion, instead of a costly theater run.
My scores are: Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 6.5 Movie Overall: 5.5-6.0
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