The night­mare be­fore Christ­mas

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

Na­tiv­ity 3: Dude, Where’s My Don­key?

Cer­tifi­cate U

Stars Martin Clunes, Cather­ine Tate, Marc Woot­ton, Lau­ren Hobbs, Adam Gar­cia, Celia Im­rie, Niky Ward­ley, Dun­can Preston, Susie Blake, Ralf Lit­tle, Ja­son Watkins

ACOU­PLE of years ago, my in­quis­i­tive nephew – then six years old – asked what hap­pens to chil­dren who are con­signed to Fa­ther Christ­mas’ naughty list.

I told him that chil­dren who mis­be­have don’t get any presents on Christ­mas Day and must spend the fol­low­ing 12 months be­ing ex­tra good. I know now that I was wrong. Mis­chievous scamps on the naughty list will be pun­ished by spend­ing 110 min­utes in the company of Na­tiv­ity 3: Dude, Where’s My Don­key?!

There are el­e­ments of this sham­bolic third in­stal­ment of writer-di­rec­tor Deb­bie Isitt’s im­pro­vised fes­tive fables that my lit­tle nephew might en­joy: flat­u­lence, dol­lops of don­key dung and a gurn­ing man-child dressed in an over­sized an­i­mal cos­tume.

How­ever, no amount of wrap­ping can dis­guise an early Christ­mas turkey, over­stuffed with sickly sen­ti­ment, mawk­ish mu­si­cal se­quences and gar­gan­tuan leaps of logic.

It’s a cry­ing, sniv­el­ling shame – the orig­i­nal Na­tiv­ity!, re­leased in 2009, was an un­abashed de­light that has be­come an an­nual treat in my tinsel-laden house­hold.

This third – hope­fully fi­nal – chap­ter is a night­mare be­fore Christ­mas.

Mrs Keen (Celia Im­rie), the new head­mistress of St Ber­nadette’s Pri­mary School in Coven­try, wel­comes su­perteacher Mr Shep­herd (Martin Clunes) to the fold to whip the pupils into shape ahead of an Of­sted in­spec­tion.

On his first day, Mr Shep­herd sus­tains a swift kick to the head from the school don­key.

When he re­gains con­scious­ness, he doesn’t re­call his daugh­ter Lau­ren (Lau­ren Hobbs) or his im­pend­ing New York nup­tials to sweet­heart Sophie (Cather­ine Tate).

Buf­foon­ish teach­ing as­sis­tant Mr Poppy (Marc Woot­ton) helps Lau­ren re­store her fa­ther’s mem­ory by vis­it­ing favourite haunts from his child­hood and par­tic­i­pat­ing in a flash mob com­pe­ti­tion in London.

Mean­while, in the Big Ap­ple, Sophie’s old flame, ar­ro­gant flash mob guru Bradley Finch (Adam Gar­cia), worms his way back into her brit­tle af­fec­tions with help from her par­ents (Dun­can Preston, Susie Blake), brother (Ralf Lit­tle) and brides­maid (Niky Ward­ley).

This is pos­si­bly the worst film I’ve seen this year.

The script’s def­i­ni­tion of a flash mob is ex­tremely loose, some of the chil­dren at St Ber­nadette’s look too old to at­tend pri­mary school, sev­eral New York scenes have clearly been shot closer to home, with Bri­tish ac­tors at odds with the ac­cent, and Mr Poppy is a ma­jor ir­ri­ta­tion rather than a joy­ous source of gig­gles.

Per­for­mances are as wooden as a Nor­we­gian spruce and the song and dance num­bers are un­evenly lip-synced.

Char­ac­ters be­have with­out melodic rhyme or rea­son.

Sophie’s brother in­ex­pli­ca­bly vows to help slime­ball Bradley win back Sophie, then sab­o­tages the ne­far­i­ous plan in the next breath.

To an­swer the over-punc­tu­ated ques­tion in the film’s ti­tle: with re­gret, dude, he’s at the knacker’s yard drag­ging the en­tire cast and crew with him.

n SCHOOL SPEC­TA­CLE: Marc Woot­ton and Martin Clunes with the chil­dren of St Ber­nadette’s Pri­mary School PA

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