Around 4 B.C., a miniature mill donkey is tired of walking in an endless circle as he and his partner grind grain. With the help of a bird who can’t stop dancing and waving his behind at the camera (more on this later), the donkey manages to escape. While he’s running away from his owner he accidentally stumbles onto the aftermath of Mary and Joseph’s wedding feast. Mary adopts him and names him Bo. Joseph doesn’t like Bo because he steals Mary’s attention away from him. As time goes forward, Bo soon finds himself caught up in a very unusual depiction of the Nativity story with no way of escape.
Production Quality (1.5 points)
All things considered, the production in this film is a mixed bag with the animation quality being it’s strongest point. This being said, the animation is fine and has no major errors, and outdoor scenes look mostly realistic; however, the transitions between scenes are either very abrupt and choppy or follow no logical train of thought. The soundtrack is a hodge-podge of several songs by big-name Christian artists, and the said songs don’t usually match the mood of the scene in which they are played. For instance, in one scene where the donkey is depressed, we hear a Casting Crowns song about happiness (?). It’s as if the filmmakers were trying to squeeze as many pseudo-Christmas songs as they could into the run-time with no regard for proper editing. Moreover, the film could have used some instrumental music instead of only songs with lyrics because the viewer is confused as to whether they’re supposed to be listening to the radio or watching a movie. In short, there are more continuity errors than successes. Finally, audio quality contains no notable errors, but editing continues to be a problem here.
Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)
What exactly is the plot of this film? Is it a donkey coming-of-age tale? Is it an unusual interpretation of Mary and Joseph’s relationship? Is it about a donkey and a bird who long to join the ‘royal caravan’? Anyway, the plot and storyline are absolute madness, so hold on to your hats. First, it is highly unlikely that Mary was six months pregnant before ever telling Joseph about the angel’s appearance and her new future. Furthermore, the Bible says that Joseph went through a period of indecision before deciding to remain engaged to Mary. In this depiction he says a very brief prayer and hears a one-word answer, then he’s hunky dory. Second, what’s with all the references to animal’s rear ends? From the old donkey in the mill to that obnoxious dove who won’t stop waving his at the camera (sometimes at very close range) and making frequent jokes about pooping on people, we were left slightly repulsed and scratching our heads. Moreover, why are there so many characters in this plot, and why are some minor characters focused on while others have like two scenes? Third, we have no explanation for the weird singular Roman wannabe super soldier who hulks around with a mask on for the entirety of the film, while grunting and leading two ‘evil’
henchman dogs around on chains. Apparently King Herod sent him on a very evil mission to kill Mary, or Jesus, or something. Because said soldier never speaks we are frequently tortured with dialogue from the uber-serious wolf and his unfunny bulldog sidekick. The main question here is why has this soldier singled out Mary and Joseph to follow around??? Finally, no one knows why Elizabeth and Zechariah are only in one scene – Zechariah is apparently a dim-witted guy who loves to gorge himself on free food – or why Joseph hates Bo so much. This maddening tale comes to a screeching halt with a Band-aid style ending that doesn’t make up for everything else.
Acting Quality (1 point)
The acting quality is fine in this movie, but no voice actor portrays much depth beyond reading their lines in varying tones of voice. As is typical for movies by this filmmaker, a whole bunch of celebrities and Christian celebs are thrown together in a mish-mash cast. On a side note, its really too bad Christopher Plummer was wasted on this film because he would have made a great King Herod in a live-action Christmas film. Any-who, there’s nothing particularly remarkable to speak of here. Yes, there’s no glaring errors, but there’s also nothing that makes this film stand out from it’s counterparts. Overall, acting quality is fine, but the performances – with the exception of Zachary Levi, who actually tries – are pretty much phoned in.
In summary, there is no reason to even try to make a kids animated film unless you’re going to commit to making it high-quality in all respects – the world has enough B-grade Christian kids movies. We don’t really know why this movie was made or how it possibly got back into theaters this year. I guess the Christian kids entertainment genre is really that starved for content. One of the most offensive things from this movie (out of many) is the fact that they felt the need to include the statement “We tried not to stray too far from the original story”. Not too far?!?! They went way off the road! Needless to say, we don’t recommend that you watch this film, for it may cause your kids to become confused about how the Nativity story actually happened and expose them to inappropriate ‘humor’.
Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points