This November saw the release of Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!, which is the third instalment in what is thought of by most critics as a turkey (HA!) of a franchise. I personally haven’t seen any of the Nativity films, I can’t bring myself to do it, but there’s something about these films that always bothers me, other than the obvious.
But before I get into it, let’s take a look at the franchise, and how well it’s been received so far. The first film, simply titled ‘Nativity!’, has a critics score of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, although it did manage 67% audience score, and 6.5 on IMDB. I’ll admit, these aren’t offensively bad scores, but they’re certainly not anything to write home about. The film grossed around £5 million at the UK box office, by far its largest market, which on a budget of just £2 million explains why a sequel was given the go ahead.
Now, let’s take a look at Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger, which, if I didn’t already know the third film’s title, I would assume would be the lowest possible point the people naming these films could reach. The film has a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 36%, an audience score of 52%, and 5.5 on IMDB. It can’t be ignored, those are bad numbers. The third film is currently at 10% critics score and 39% audience score, putting us well into ‘worst film of the year’ territory. Regardless of this, the film almost doubled the box office of the first Nativity, so a third film in the series was a certainty. I can’t say anything bad about the people making these decisions, as it’s simply good business to keep printing money, but it’s not the people behind the scenes that I have a problem with.
Heading up this film is Martin Clunes, a classically trained, well-respected, multi award-winning actor. Let’s face it, he’s not far off ‘national treasure’ status, and yet he’s signed on to the third installment of this franchise. My question is, why? There’s clearly no artistic merit to be had, and no respect or any kind of industry recognition, and with such a small budget it can’t be a huge pay check for him either, which is what usually tempts people into making films of this… erm… calibre. The only conclusion I can come to is that he is the latest in a long line of British actors, who have agreed to be in a low-level British film, simply to ‘support’ the British film industry.
Let’s take a look at some more examples. The Nativity! franchise alone features the following respected British actors: Martin Freeman, Ricky Tomlinson, David Tennant, Celia Imrie and Catherine Tate. These are all actors who may not have perfect track records, but at this point in their careers are capable of working at a higher… calibre.
Now, it might feel like I’m picking on the Nativity! films, and that I’m just Grinching my way through this argument. Maybe all of these people simply love Christmas, I hear you say. Let me give you some more examples. Actors who appeared in St Trinians and it’s sequel: Rupert Everett (who by the way played brother/sister combo Jack and Jill style, but without Adam Sandler’s pay check), Gemma Arteton, Colin Firth (Academy ward winner), David Tennant again, Toby Jones, Celia Imrie again, again. And what about films like The Love Punch, where Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan (he used to be Jame Bond!!!), Timothy Spall, and Celia Imrie (Celia, I love you, but please stop), all go in together and make a pact, as if some producer his dirty secrets on all of them, and wants his life long passion project of four old people stealing diamonds to finally become a reality. Also, Emma Thompson was Nanny McPhee, twice, which is almost as many times as she’s been nominated for an Oscar.
Even if it’s voice acting, like Olivia Coleman in Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, or the entire cast of Gnomeo and Juliet, British actors keep sullying their filmography with these titles. My point is, this seems to be a purely British thing to do, when actors of the highest quality, in some cases Oscar winners, support an industry, which isn’t exactly failing, or fledgling, to their own detriment. I’ve never seen it anywhere else, and the worst part is, I already know that in a few years time, I’m going to see a poster for Nativity 4: This Time it’s Biblical, starring Tom Hardy and Sir Ian McKellen. And Probably Celia Imrie.
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