A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chasing the Star follows three Magi who have been sent in the direction of Bethlehem in search of the latest, but reportedly truest, messiah. The journey is arduous and dangerous, and along the way they face their own shortcomings. A man is beaten up; some blood. Some dead bodies are seen. A man tries to stab himself but can't. Crucifixion and other tortures are mentioned. A man enters a woman's tent at night. He does nothing but talk to her.
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What's the story?
CHASING THE STAR begins with a story familiar to many of the 2.4 billion Christians around the globe, but the focus deliberately veers from the new messiah to the men looking for him. Three high priests, or perhaps kings, or perhaps astrologers, known as Magi, are sent in the direction of Bethlehem in search of the latest, but reportedly truest, messiah. The journey is challenging and dangerous, which becomes especially clear when they must ask the murderous King Herod (Ralph Lister) permission to pass through his lands. His ire is aroused at the thought that the newborn is being called a "king," which challenges his sovereignty. We learn, mostly through flashback, that each priest leaves behind a difficult life. The father of Balthazar (Randy Spence) rails at him for giving up his earthly duties as a son for the lure of a supposedly useless spiritual calling. In the case of Gaspar (Bello Pizzimento), his family couldn't be prouder of the young man's role as a priest, but Gaspar only wants to stay with his beloved Arzu (McKenzie Kruse), a pretty girl whose father beats Gaspar nearly to death. The aging Melchior (Garry Nation) had been taken in by priests when orphaned as a young boy and has lived a cloistered life of faith and service ever since, knowing nothing of the real world. They share these intimacies when a terrible storm sidelines them on their way to Bethlehem. The devil makes an appearance, puzzlingly in the forms of both a younger man (Taymour Ghazi) and an older one played by Rance Howard (director Ron's dad). The devil argues with the soldier/angel Gabriel and randomly blinds an innocent boy. The stepdaughter of Herod the Great, Salome (Yancy Butler), makes several appearances but plays no explainable role here. Eventually the Magi's caravan moves on, presumably to Bethlehem, while Herod tries to kill himself, for no apparent reason, and then stops, also without explanation.
Is it any good?
Technically speaking, this may possibly be the worst moving picture ever made about anything, but certainly among the worst about the early days of Christianity. The quality of camerawork, lighting, writing, editing, and direction in Chasing the Star are all awful. The director makes admirable efforts to place the action 2000 years back but then populates his cast with modern haircuts and actors who spout dialogue using everything from Valley Speak to Brooklynese to British English. Some deliver formal speeches with hilariously informal accents. Others drop most of their consonants. One guy says, "I shuh ge' home" (translation: "I should get home"). The devil says, "Shirley, I do' wanna invoke the wrath of such servants" (translation: "Surely, I don't want to invoke the wrath of such servants"). A character chides another for speaking of death, but chooses sarcasm to convey his disappointment: "That was joyous talk, just joyous," he says disapprovingly. One priest states the obvious, that they've fallen out of favor with the sinister caravan master, to which another priest responds with a snide, thoroughly 21st-century Americanism: "Ya think?"
The filmmakers seek to tell the story of the sacrifices made by the Magi -- who some say were astrologers and some say were kings -- in the early days of Christianity. Given the excitement Christians would presumably associate with the actual discovery of the messiah in the manger, it's odd that the movie dwells for more than 40 of its 96 minutes on the Magi sitting in a dark tent waiting for a storm to pass, a storm it's much later suggested was put in their path by the devil. Note that occasionally dead bodies are seen with no explanation of who they were or how they got there. The movie ends in a quick sequence of unrelated and incomprehensible cuts, including a brief closeup in which a weeping Herod (why is he weeping?) contemplates suicide (why?) and then decides against it (again why?) while the devil seems to be watching (how'd he get there?). Shirley reading the New Testament would be more rewarding.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Chasing the Star adds anything to the trove of information about the birth of Christ. Families may also wish to discuss who they think this movie is intended for.
What do you like about Christmas movies? Do you enjoy learning about the history of the general era in which Christ was reported to be born?
The Magi all berate themselves for not being faithful enough to serve. They fear their human flaws make them unworthy to serve their God. Do you think being human makes a person unworthy of the love that most of the world's religions claim to be about? How did you feel about the self-deprecation of the Magi in this movie?
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