Sony's Affirm Films recently released its highly-anticipated Nativity musical, "Journey to Bethlehem" in theaters.
The film follows Mary (Fiona Palomo) and Joseph (Milo Manheim) through their first meeting, betrothal, marriage, and the Birth of Jesus. In short, the overall premise covers King Herod's (played by Antonio Banderas) unsuccessful pursuit of Jesus.
Here's the trailer:
As a first-ever Nativity musical, I was both pleased and disappointed.
From an entertainment perspective, the film contained beautiful visual effects and artistic imagery, catchy pop songs, and excellent acting. Antonio Banderas did a marvelous job portraying Herod. The performers portraying Jesus and Mary also convey the needed chemistry for a believable love story. The movie was also a clean, family-oriented film.
However, while the movie definitely satisfied the entertainment element, it was disappointingly not true to the Biblical story.
In the first part of the story, the film contains hints of cultural feminism and portrays Our Lady as imperfect. For example, the story says Mary desires to be a teacher, and she argues with her parents about marrying Joseph.
She then tells her friends she prefers a career over the vocation of a married homemaker with children.
Further into the movie, Mary proposes to Saint Joseph. He says yes, but something like that would likely never happen historically or traditionally, especially given the time period.
Secondly, the film uses the Magi and the Angel Gabriel for comic relief. In fact, they depict both the Magi and the Angel Gabriel as unintelligent and clueless throughout the majority of the film.
For example, Gabriel bumps his head as he enters Mary's room to announce that she will give birth to the Son of God.
In reality, Gabriel is an Archangel with supernatural intelligence unfathomable to the human mind. The manner in which the movie portrays him, in my opinion, is a mockery of God's angelic design.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the film was the lack of defining Biblical moments we cherish as Catholic Christians.
Affirm Films completely omitted Mary's "Yes" to the Angel Gabriel.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” - Luke 1:38
Before seeing the film, I really looked forward to the depiction of this Bible verse. However, to my disappointment, they left it out. Why?
The film also omits Mary's Magnificat and Elizabeth's greeting to Mary visiting her cousin.
Mary kneels before Elizabeth and holds her pregnant stomach, while it should really be the other way around.
Other disappointments in "Journey to Bethlehem"
Throughout the film, King Herod searches for Jesus by means of his son and prior to Jesus' birth, which are additional Biblical inaccuracies.
In short, Herod's son eventually changes tune when he finds Jesus immediately after His birth. He does not kill Jesus but changes his heart with mercy and provides his earthly royal protection.
Again, this adds to the entertainment aspect of the film, but as for Biblical truth, it fails miserably.
Should You See "Journey to Bethlehem"?
As said in the first portion of this review, the movie is an entertaining, family-friendly film. I enjoyed the songs, the acting, and the overall story.
One of the final scenes portraying Jesus' birth brought tears to my eyes because it was so moving. I also love how the story portrays the humanity of some Biblical figures.
However, if you're looking for a true Biblical film, this is not it. If you allow your children to see "Journey to Bethlehem," be sure to inform them that this version of the Nativity is not the real story of Jesus.
My overall take: Watch with discretion. This film is a fantasy and is only based on the Bible. It's not a biblical story.