Reaching film number four in this series of British school Nativity films is news enough. Just how is anyone’s guess? If there is a festive formula to this screen silliness, it is that us Brits love to cheer on an underdog at this time of year – even if that means encouraging more of Mr Poppy or his relatives to leap out of the woodwork. No, Marc Wootton as the infantile teacher has not returned. Meet Simon Lipkin, his cousin, Jerry, this time around.
Brummie film-maker Debbie Isitt is back to tell us why we should all love the Midlands, or Coventry. How better than through the verses of a rock opera sung by adorable kids and a camp(er) TV institution that is Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood. Tongue firmly in cheek; just who is laughing at who, we might ask?
Those who got donkey-mares four years ago with Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?! and had to suspend all reality to believe a school class got to New York City with a donkey are in for an even bigger treat this time. Film four presents a dumbed down, albeit romanticized story version of the migrant crisis for youngsters. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, but the circumstances in which little refugee kid Doru (a cherub-faced Brian Bartle) comes to be at the school is another thing. And how he comes to be reunited with a long-lost relative to complete the story of ‘unity at Christmas-time’ is all the more incredible. Still, so is how Celia Imrie’s headmistress character Mrs Keen keeps giving jobs to crazed, immature men off the street, especially with all the school safeguarding – but that’s the parent talking sense.
To give him his dues, Lipkin is less irritating than Wootton’s Poppy, but has the same knack of relating to kids, if reactions from younger audience members are anything to go by. There is a fare dollop of “Kids Do The Funniest Things” going on here that this film series relies heavily on. There is also another heart-strings-pulling moment where Jerry and Doru befriend another rich kid who appears to have it all, but is as ‘poor’ as them in the family/loving stakes. Low and behold, this is soon corrected – obviously, the point to it all.
As for Strictly fans, Revel Horwood provides enough (wooden) acting and lording it over proceedings to bring a smirk to the face. Full marks awarded to the dance show judge for being a complete sport in this, sending up himself. Thanks to a British staple acting ensemble of Anna Chancellor, Helen George, Ruth Jones, Hugh Dennis, Jessica Hynes and Meera Syal, Nativity Rocks! feels like a traditional panto on film, one that makes you sigh, cringe, giggle and come back for more slapstick should a fifth film rear its head in another four years time. You have been warned.