So here it is, another festive cringe fest for everyone who doubted the Nativity franchise had a fourth instalment in it, not least those who had yet to be persuaded it even had one. Picking up the story after the dreadful performance of events of Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?, Nativity Rocks! returns to St Bernadette’s in Coventry, whose pupils have yet again been forced into putting on an improbably ambitious end-of-term musical production.
We’re back with the kids at St. Bernadette’s Primary school as the staff and students audition for a place in the town’s spectacular rock musical. Celia Imrie reprises her role as the headmistress Mrs Keen, leading a very exciting cast including the likes of Meera Syal, Ruth Jones, Hugh Dennis and strictly judge himself Craig Revel Horwood.
This rendition certainly seemed to give off vibes of a knock-off of ‘School of Rock’ from the outside (which fifteen years on has rightly still proven to be enduring), ‘Nativity Rocks!’ also borrows much from ‘Elf’. In Jerry Poppy (Simon Lipkin), you have the child-like, naïve adult protagonist who loves sweets, is looking for his family, and is determined to spread the Christmas spirit. However, Lipkin is a far cry from Jack Black or Will Ferrell, and his character is annoyingly, unrealistically socially inept (though some are going to love his goofiness). Moreover, if the film is going to take from such classics as ‘Elf’ and ‘School of Rock’, you’d wish that it had at least brought along the wit and genuine feeling of its predecessors.
Little ones painfully and totally nonsensically screech rock ballads such as ‘Born To Be Wild’, ‘We Built This City’ and ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ (no not the Kelly Clarkson song). Toilet humour is plentiful while kids saying the most ridiculous of things that are relied upon for cheap laughs. In fact, everything from the cast, script, direction and motive of the film can be described as just that – cheap. It even has a Syrian refugee storyline to add ‘relevance’. However, the fact that more focus is given to the fully grown man looking to be adopted is extremely incongruous.
While following, and totally conforming too, the traditional nativity but with added twist algorithm, the introduction of rock to the equation certainly made a difference. Going into this I can admit I had low expectations, not simply based on the average trilogy of Nativity films prior to this, but for the fact of another adaption to the Yuletide story. And the lack of David Tennant, I mean come on! Tennant aside, I was surprised about the cast that this movie had been able to cobble together nonetheless.
I was definitely surprised to hear a reference to Plymouth when there were discussions concerning other rock nativity performances, which I’m very glad we didn’t have to endure. Jessica Hynes character refers to how ‘we didn’t have this trouble in Stoke or even Plymouth’ Also another reference was apparent with the clear point towards Braveheart with ‘they may take our…’ you know the rest, but instead of a neat reference it was much more of an on the nose stab in the dark at audience adulation.
Another example of a trilogy that cannot be left alone, and a fourth entry that seemed pretty pointless on paper and certainly that was in execution. Very average, but one to stick in front of the kids this Christmas.