Los Angeles Times

Fast-Paised review: 'The Nativity Story'

Heard this one before? Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Joseph (Oscar Isaac) deal with the impending birth of Jesus. The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("Lords of Dogtown," "Thirteen").

Big question: Why does this story need to be re-told?

Catch it: Seeking uplift without going for guilt, this chronicle of Jesus' birth is told as a story of enduring faith without the filmmaker getting in the way. There's nothing flashy about "The Nativity Story," and that's part of the reason the film is so moving.

Skip it: If you prefer to learn about the Bible from works like, say, "The Da Vinci Code."

Bottom line: While this straightforward, easily understood approach is the right way to make history accessible--we're talking to you, Sofia Coppola--"The Nativity Story" doesn't rise to anything ground-breaking, and comedic bits involving three wise men break up the level tone. Overall, the movie is just a clean re-telling of a benchmark in the endless conflict between spirituality and science, God and man.

Bonus: It's good to have a reminder that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' child wasn't the most anticipated child of all time!

Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.


'The Nativity Story'

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke; written by Mike Rich; photographed by Elliot Davis; edited by Robert K. Lambert, Stuart Levy; production designed by Stefano Maria Ortolani; music by Mychael Danna; produced by Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey. A New Line Cinema release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:42. MPAA rating: PG (for some violent content).

Mary - Keisha Castle-Hughes

Joseph - Oscar Isaac

Anna - Hiam Abbass

Joaquim - Shaun Toub

King Herod - Ciaran Hinds

Elizabeth - Shohreh Aghdashloo

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