If you are in the mood for a faith-based movie, this one is a good choice. It is a musical retelling of the story of the nativity, reminiscent of a live action Disney film with a Christian twist. The main character, Mary (played by Fiona Palomo), is similar to Belle from Beauty and the Beast or Jasmine from Aladdin – she is intelligent and yearns for independence rather than being forced into marriage with a stranger named Joseph (played by Milo Manheim). Fortunately, Joseph turns out to be charming and attractive (similar to Aladdin), and the Three Wise Men provide some comedic relief.
Similarly to Disney movies, the villain stands out as the most memorable character in this film. Antonio Banderas portrays King Herod with a mix of scene-stealing and over-the-top performance, channeling the devil from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut through his costume. The saying that the devil has the best songs proves true, with the three catchiest musical numbers sung by Herod, his son Joel Smallbone, and a clever double-role performance by Manheim as both the faithful and skeptical sides of Joseph, who is struggling to believe his fiancee’s story about an immaculate conception.
Unfortunately, the film fails to maintain the impressive moments it presents. It contains too many forgettable songs and once Mary becomes pregnant, her role becomes limited. Even Herod’s storyline peters out. These issues may stem from the source material, as the gospels are not known for well-developed characters or satisfying narrative arcs. However, the filmmakers have invested time and effort into the production, despite a modest budget. They have created an appealingly vibrant color scheme and utilized decent locations, providing a sense of realism that is only occasionally undermined by questionable special effects. The choreography in particular surpasses that of another popular musical centered around a mysterious paternity – Mamma Mia.