Martin Freeman is Scrooge. Okay, he's not Scrooge, but he plays someone who gets very grumpy around Christmas time. Which, in simple terms, equates to him being Scrooge. Or, at the very least, A Scrooge. He's also a teacher, ordered by the headmistress (Pam Ferris) to organise the upcoming nativity play. While being grumpy, putting up with a juvenile assistant (Marc Wootton), and generally wishing that he could be left in peace until the festive season was over, he also lies to someone about the fact that his nativity play is going to be viewed by some bigwigs from Hollywood, brought over especially by his ex-girlfriend (Ashley Jensen). This lie, of course, gets out and about, and it grows and grows until there looks to be no good way to resolve the situation.
Written and directed by Debbie Isitt (with plenty of room for improvisation), Nativity! is a film full of some easy laughs, but it is also too busy trying to make viewers feel moved with a lot of clumsy, emotional content shoehorned into almost every sequence. We can't just laugh at Freeman being grouchy to little kids, or Wootton being amusingly childish, oh noooo. We have to remember that Freeman is grouchy because of the emotional damage that he experienced some years ago, and we have to remember that Wootton does make the kids laugh, but people in charge of little ones should also remember their responsibilities.
And as for the troublesome kids? Let's not forget that they may already have their own issues, be it a need for some more attention, a blustery front to cover up insecurities, or a turbulent home life.
The cast is at least full of familiar faces, all doing decent enough work. Alongside Freeman, Ferris, Wootton and Jensen there is Jason Watkins, Alan Carr and even small roles for John Sessions and Ricky Tomlinson. And then there are those kids. While they may not be the best bunch of youngsters to have graced movie screens, they're a likable bunch of rogues and cutie-pies, often raising a smile just by looking cheekily at the camera.
While it may be a bit too sweet and cloying for many, myself included, there are still a few decent moments sprinkled throughout Nativity! And, anyway, Christmas is the time for the sweet and cloying, so you may find it worth a watch while the decorations are hanging up and you just want some undemanding entertainment.