NATIVITY! (U) * DIRECTED BY: DEBBIE ISITT STARRING: MARTIN FREEMAN, ASHLEY JENSEN, MARC WOOTTON, ALAN CARR
BAR-LOWERING British sitcom cinema meets Kids Do The Funniest Things in Nativity!, a horribly shrill seasonal flick about a sad-sack primary teacher whose unwitting boast that he can get "Hollywood" interested in his school's production of the nativity creates snowballing levels of hysteria among the kids, his colleagues and the local media. Though the always affable Martin Freeman stars as said expectation-raising teach, a tenuous plot that requires him to spend most of the film pining for his Tinseltown-bound ex (Ashley Jensen), while a bunch of precocious kids run riot, ensures he's fighting a losing battle to make this in any way bearable. Director Debbie Isitt, following the shambolic, semi-improvised, gag-free formula of her last film, Confetti, rounds out the adult cast with another slew of small-screen British comedy stars so pleased to be in a movie – any movie – they look as if they might grin themselves to death. That fate seems oddly preferable to the hokey holiday homilies, let's-put-on-a-show inanities and general feel-good unpleasantness vomited forth on screen here. Not even a last-minute appearance by The Wire's Clarke Peters – looking thoroughly baffled as a Hollywood producer helicoptered into the middle of Coventry – acts as much of a saviour.