Should You and Your Family Follow ‘The Star’?

YES! Take your kids, take your grandparents, take your friends and maybe some strangers off the street and go see the heartwarming, and at times hilarious, Sony Animation film “The Star.”

Despite being animated, it really is a film for all ages. The movie is aimed at a core audience of little kids — 6 to 12 years old seems to be the sweet spot. That said, it is still engaging enough for older kids and adults, and could be appreciated by grandparents and viewers of any age.

WARNING for really little kids, there are some scary dogs and a menacing henchman, but that is about as “hard-edged” as it gets.

So, if there is one movie to top your list this weekend, I’m putting “The Star” in first place. That’s right, I put it above the “Justice League” and that’s coming from me – a serious comicbook fan!

For those of you who have never heard of “The Star,” the film tells the story of the birth of Christ – with a twist – it is taken from the perspective of the animals, in particular from a donkey named Bo (short for Boaz), who is voiced by “Walking Dead” star Steven Yuen.

But the cast of voice actors is sizeable and impressive, ranging from Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Zachary Levi, (Chuck and Tangled) as Mary and Joseph, to Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and even a voice cameo by mega-church pastor Joel Olsteen as a magi.

I am guessing that I don’t have to give a “spoiler alert” when talking about a film that follows the very familiar story of the first Christmas, but the movie literally kicks off with the Annunciation and goes all the way to the Nativity and Epiphany. The movie provides a highly entertaining way to connect, or reconnect, the whole family to the birth of Jesus.

However, don’t follow “The Star” too closely when it comes to pure scripture or theology. In fact, the filmmakers themselves were wise enough to state that, while nothing in the movie is anti-faith or against the Gospel, they took some “adventurous creative license” with the greatest story ever told. Therefore,

  • Do not look to this film to be an exact interpretation of scripture.  A line such as “Be it done unto me according to thy word” has been given the modern translation of “Let it be done, just as you said.”
  • Do not think this film follows an exact theological understanding of the bible. For example, the Wise Man, Caspar, presents his gift and says “I brought Frankincense. Do you like Frankincense? Oh, I never know what to get.” Now, the bible itself never specifies exactly what Caspar says, but theologically speaking, Catholics believe that the gifts the Magi gave of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were very intentional. Gold represents royalty (the gold of a crown), frankincense represented deity (frankincense was used as incense to worship in the temple) and myrrh depicted death or mortality (it was a perfume used on cloths to wrap the dead). Therefore, these gifts foretell that Jesus Christ would be King, God and Sacrifice, so it is unlikely Caspar brought frankincense as a default gift. That said, the line plays as funny and is meant to be harmless.
  • Do not think that this film is a historical retelling of the Bible either. In the movie, Mary breaks the news of her miraculous pregnancy to Joseph, who understandably tells her that he needs time to think before agreeing to be the foster father of the King of Kings. Then, in prayer, Joseph gets his answer. It’s a sweet moment in the film, but it is not “Bible accurate.” In the Gospels, when Joseph hears of Mary being pregnant, he actually decides to divorce her, though, to be clear, they were betrothed, not married. He actually wants to separate quietly so as not to get Mary in trouble with the law, because we see later in the Gospels how women caught in adultery are treated under Hebrew law. Then, that night, Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream, and the angel confirms that Mary is carrying the Son of God. That is when Joseph takes Mary into his home and fully commits to his calling. “The Star” gets to the point much faster, and carefully maneuvers past such issues as unwed mothers being stoned to death in ancient Jewish culture for obvious reasons. That said, “The Star” is clearly not Bible history.

So what is it?

“The Star” is a fun, clever, beautifully rendered, fable that re-envisions the birth of Jesus as seen from the eyes of animals that could have been there. Yes, certain denominations and hardcore traditionalists may criticize this movie. However, it can’t be denied that this film takes into account the importance of faith– people are actually shown praying — and the movie reminds us that God becoming Man, and the God-Man Jesus coming into our lives, is the real meaning and gift of Christmas.

In fact, if you want some helpful ways to connect the movie to religion, you can find excellent resources created by the National Catholic Catechetical Leaders association on “The Star’s” website. If you go to the film’s home page, then click on “Menu” at the top left, you go down to the “Resource” tab and click on that selection, and you find a page full of suggestions.

This link gives families good resources and suggestions on how to connect “The Star” to their faith.

Seeing “The Star” is a great way to get the whole family to kick off Advent and get everyone into the true spirit of Christmas. Finally, a new, truly family film for the birth of Our Lord!

And, BTW, FTP donated 50,000 rosaries to help in the promotional efforts for “The Star.” Here’s Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., blessing a selection of them.

Image: Sony Animation

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