A review of the comedy Nativity!

by Ben Glass
November 23, 2009

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NEW Christmas film Nativity! received a round of applause at its first screening in Coventry last night.

The special showing at the Skydome Odeon drew squeals of delight from the audience as extras (mainly children) saw themselves on the big screen and spotted their names in the credits.

Nativity! is a feel-good festive comedy starring Martin Freeman (The Office), comedian Alan Carr and Ashley Jensen (Extras and Ugly Betty).

Jason Watkins, Ashley Jensen and Martin Freeman in Nativity!

The story follows Freeman’s schoolteacher character Mr Maddens as he directs a nativity play, hoping to outdo a rival school’s production and finally impress the local poison-penned theatre critic (Carr).

Mr Maddens’ zeal prompts a boast that a former girlfriend and LA producer (Jensen) will be filming his play.

And as a result, Coventry is struck by Hollywood fever.

Jason Watkins and Alan Carr in Nativity!

It must be said that as Nativity! is a family film, certificate U, it will only truly be appreciated by movie-goers who:

A, are children
B, have children
C, are feeling broody

Many of the gags are based on children being cute in their attempts to bathe in the limelight.

But Nativity! is probably the best feature film in history for Coventry spotting.

Coventry-based director Debbie Isitt has featured the city centre, the old cathedral, Bablake Prep School and plenty of other areas.

Marc Wootton plays Mr Poppy

You'll also spot local faces in many of the scenes.

Even the Coventry Telegraph's new editor, Darren Parkin, makes an appearance as a roving reporter.

The main cast are all well suited to their roles.

Although Freeman may have been too well suited – Mr Maddens could easily be an older version of the character he played in The Office.

Alan Carr does a sterling job as the theatre critic. The film would definitely not have suffered had he featured more.

Marc Wootton and Martin Freeman in the Old Cathedral

Coventry's Lord Mayor is played amiably by Ricky Tomlinson (The Royle Family) and Marc Wootton tackles classroom assistant Mr Poppy very well - like a British Jack Black (with more charm).

Ashley Jensen plays Jennifer Lore well despite being lumbered with a characterless – albeit pretty - role.

Perhaps the star of the show was Jason Watkins who raised a number of laughs as frustrated actor and schoolteacher Gordon Shakespeare.

Fans of American hit TV series The Wire will be pleased to spot Baltimore detective Lester Freamon in Coventry.

Martin Freeman in Spon Street, Coventry

The film may fare better in DVD sales than at the box office, as it lacked the sleekness needed for the big screen.

That said, Nativity! is a heart-warming family film well worth watching - even if it's just for a bit of Cov spotting.

The show is released nationwide on November 27.

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