REVIEW: Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger!

On the lookout for a Christmas gift, or perhaps some festive fun for a family Christmas Eve? Look no further, as David Tennant's 2012 film Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger! is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Find out what it's all about below:

Nativity 2: Danger In The Manger

In 2009, the modest family film Nativity! introduced us to the riotous kids of St. Bernadette’s Primary School in Coventry, their teacher Mr. Maddens (Martin Freeman) and a classroom assistant unlike any other in Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton). It proved to be a home-grown Christmas hit, providing families with festive, feel good fun and a heart-warming story of adults and children finding their own self-belief and talents.

The sequel reached UK cinema screens last year and has now been released on DVD and Blu-Ray in time for this Christmas. With Martin Freeman off seeking dragon treasure in Middle Earth it falls to David Tennant to step into the chaotic world of St. Bernadette’s as new teacher Donald Peterson who has just moved to the area with his very pregnant wife Sarah (Joanna Page). Mr. Poppy has been left in charge of the class in the absence of a proper teacher, and the school day is full of farting contests, silly string wars and secret auditions for the Song For Christmas competition, entry to which is promptly banned by Mrs. Bevans (Pam Ferris). Unlike previous replacements for Mr. Maddens, Mr. Peterson manages to survive beyond the first day, despite finding a shrine dedicated to his predecessor and dealing with a classroom full of babies. He even thinks he has managed to talk the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Poppy out of the planned trip to compete in the Song For Christmas contest, but Mr. Poppy has his own ideas about that and the anxious teacher is soon right out of his comfort zone as part of an ill-advised and unauthorised ride across Wales with half of the class and a baby.

David Tennant takes a dual role in the film, also playing Mr. Peterson’s twin Roderick. Roderick Peterson is a huge success, a household name with awards and international recognition, much to the pride of their overbearing and unpleasant father (Ian McNeice). So not only will St. Bernadette’s be up against previous rivals Oakmoor School, led by Gordon Shakespeare (played with exuberant flair by Jason Watkins) but, to Donald’s horror, they will also be in competition with the elitist St. Cuthbert’s choir led by his estranged brother.  Roderick, snooty, cold, selfish and not adverse to bending the rules to get what he wants (“We do not cheat, we succeed” he icily informs one of his choristers) is the product of some of Mr. Peterson Snr’s more dubious parenting techniques, the same techniques that have left the other twin fearful of challenge and growth.

Director Debbie Isitt has taken the themes from the first film and expanded upon them, sending her protagonists on a physical journey as well as their own personal journey of discovery. Her characters face challenges that lead them to have faith in themselves and to believe that they can achieve anything they want. The theme of family is also very apparent, and the role of the father is a particular focus, with a number of the characters either missing fathers or being affected by their parent’s actions. It is all part of Donald’s journey from the over-anxious character we meet at the outset as he prepares for fatherhood and starts to believe in his own gifts and talents.

But alongside the intrinsic messages, the film is a very likeable and unashamed piece of Christmas fun, with the added bonus of having some very accomplished actors on board. The improvised performances are strong and natural and it’s clear that the cast were having a lot of enjoyment exploring their roles. David Tennant as Donald may be a little over the top with the frustrated yelling at times, but he seems to be relishing the challenge of the two roles so much, giving fans two versions of David to enjoy:  one ruffle-haired, permanently harassed and endearingly loveable, the other smooth, bespectacled, and ever so slightly evil, so that we can surely overlook that. Marc Wootton is as hilarious and unpredictable as ever in the role of the anarchic Mr. Poppy but he is given a poignant side that explains perhaps his need to remain in the safety of childhood. Joanna Page gives Sarah Peterson a reassuringly strong side, more than the quiet little wife in the background but one who is strong enough to stick up for her husband when he needs her. The children are just the right side of cute, being allowed free rein to be themselves rather than give voice to mawkish adult-scripted lines. A Christmas Song competition, of course, needs credible Christmas songs, and the ones on show here are beautifully considered: the Phil Spector-like Counting Down, carbon copies of Justin Bieber and N-Dubz, the high choral number Peace And Love and of course the show-stopping and extremely catchy Born In The Hay.  The contest is hosted by superstar Angel Matthews, played in fabulous spiteful style by Jessica Hynes, who makes no secret of her crush on Roderick.

Primarily the film is aimed at children, so there’s plenty of toilet humour and slapstick and teachers getting tied up or pelted with eggs. But there’s also enough quality fun going on to appeal to all ages and there are plenty of laughs throughout. Moreover there is the strong moral message that from humility comes success, and that success can come to anyone who believes hard enough. There are admittedly one or two instances where events are questionable. Where, for instance, did Mr. Poppy stumble across a London Duck Bus in the middle of Coventry? And the ending itself requires some suspension of disbelief. Though maybe not. If you go in expecting just what this film is meant to be - a good, old-fashioned movie that the whole family can enjoy at Christmas - then you will surely accept that a Christmas miracle has taken place and that the conclusion is then exactly as it should be. It’s got to be a sad old world if we can’t expect a bit of magic at Christmas. And there’s a flying donkey out there somewhere who wholeheartedly agrees with that.

The DVD release also comes packed with extras including a Making Of featurette and some hilarious outtakes.




Watch a clip here: