Star

This is an image from the movie "The Star."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A sweet cinematic Christmas confection, “The Star” will hold the attention of the little ones with the antics of its animals and touch the hearts of older children and adults who better to understand the significance of the story. It’s mostly playful, never disrespectful, and at the finale packs a wallop of a serious message about inclusion and forgiveness that pleasantly took me by surprise.

This is an interesting co-production between Sony Pictures animation and the Jim Henson Studio (yes, of The Muppets renown). Almost all of the creatures have a Muppet-y appearance, in fact.

Front and center is Bo the little donkey (voice of Steven Yeun, television’s “The Walking Dead.”) While he helps an older donkey work at turning a wheel, he dreams of becoming part of the royal caravan – which is headed their way. The other donkey assures him that they are not the kinds of animals that carry royalty, but Bo continues to daydream about doing something more important.

Bo’s friend Dave the dove (Keegan-Michael Key) is on hand to encourage him and report what’s going on outside Bo’s home.

Of course, the animals talk about the new star in the sky, and a prophecy involving a king. Christopher Plummer is the voice of King Herod, who sends a centurion and two “bad dogs” (the voices of Ving Rhames and Gabriel Iglesias) after Mary (Gina Rodriguez).

The script involves many whimsical chase scenes, including a Rube Goldberg-ian slapstick sequence at the beginning. Bo does indeed break free of his oppressive chores, and he is adopted by the kindly Mary and reluctant Joseph.

 Bo and Dave run into a friendly sheep named Ruth (Aidy Bryant) who wants to help them in their quest to keep Mary safe. And instead of hearing a lot of dialogue from the Three Wise Men, we hear mostly the conversations between their camels (voiced by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Tracy Morgan).

Older viewers and Christmas-movie aficionados (I’m one of them) may remember the 1970s Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation production of “Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey,” which is similar to this tale.

I like the way the animals form friendships and grow to understand and trust each other. Also, the mix of older and newer songs from various genres is wonderful to hear. The two dogs play a critical part at the end in a scene about forgiveness. It’s such a beautiful moment that I admit I teared up a bit.

Faith-based audiences of all ages will enjoy both the beautifully animated characters and lovely music. And it’s just in time for the Christmas season.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church