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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Star is an animated, faith-based take on the Nativity story that's told from the perspective of the animals that accompanied Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. There's nothing too scary or iffy for young kids, except for a scene in which a big, scary animal charges people and other animals (no one is seriously hurt). There are also two intimidating attack dogs that end up temporarily incapacitated before they can do any harm, and a few other scenes of peril. King Herod is cruel and selfish, but he's clearly a bad guy -- as are the minions he sends after Mary and Joseph. Expect strong, clear messages about Christmas, family, and faith; obviously the movie aligns with the Christian belief in Jesus' virgin birth (although that detail isn't lingered on). It also has themes of compassion and integrity. Moviegoers of all backgrounds will recognize many of the voice actors (including Keegan-Michael Key, Oprah Winfrey, and Zachary Levi), but the film is likely to have the most appeal for Christian families.
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What's the story?
Inspired by the Nativity story, THE STAR follows Bo the donkey (voiced by Steven Yeun), who dreams of escaping his dull duties working for the village miller and finding glory and adventure in the outside world. One day he manages to escape and eventually teams up with Ruth (Aidy Bryant), a sheep who's lost her flock, and Dave (Keegan-Michael Key), a wisecracking dove. The trio begins an action-packed journey to follow a star that's leading them toward young, pregnant Mary (Gina Rodriguez) and her husband, Joseph (Zachary Levi), who've been forced by royal decree to travel to Bethlehem. Meanwhile, King Herod's (Christopher Plummer) henchmen, armed with a few scary attack animals, are on the lookout for pregnant women like Mary -- but Bo and his friends are ready to protect their human friends.
Is it any good?
With a great voice cast and cute character animation, this religious tale is just funny and entertaining enough to amuse most families who celebrate Christmas, not just devout church-goers. The Star manages to finely balance the biblical aspects of the Nativity story with the sillier elements associated with animated talking-animal movies. TV star Yeun (The Walking Dead) plays Bo with an earnest hopefulness, which is balanced well by Dave, the knowing, joke-cracking dove voiced by comedian Key. Kids will likely connect with the animals more than they do the biblical adults, who are well acted but far more serious, considering everything that a heavily pregnant Mary (who for some reason has pretty pale skin and huge blue eyes) and Joseph (who at least looks Middle Eastern) are going through to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Although the movie's subject matter is clearly religious, it isn't overtly preachy (unlike many other faith-based films). Still, it's definitely aimed at families that already celebrate Christmas. But it's light enough to amuse kids, and parents will get a kick out of the cast, which also includes turns by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Kristin Chenoweth, Anthony Anderson, Tracy Morgan, and more. The catchy soundtrack includes a variety of secular, gospel, and Christian superstars -- including Mariah Carey (who sings the theme song), Kirk Franklin, Casting Crowns, and Pentatonix -- singing a mix of classic and contemporary Christmas songs like "We Three Kings" and "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)." Bottom line? The Star will definitely appeal to Christian families with young kids as a holiday season pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages of family, faith, and friendship in The Star. What does Bo learn on his journey that leads him to Mary and Joseph? How does he change over the course of the movie?
Who's the target audience for this movie? Do you need to be Christian to appreciate its story and themes/messages?
Why do you think movies about talking animals are so fascinating and funny to kids?
- In theaters: November 17, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: February 6, 2018
- Cast: Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key
- Director: Timothy Reckart
- Studios: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Holidays, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Compassion, Integrity
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements
- Last updated: December 1, 2020
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