When I was stationed in New York 25 years ago, 42nd Street was not a place one would admit to going--much less at night (and even more so, if that "one" was a consecrated virgin!). In fact, I don't think I ever saw much of Manhattan at night, so our venture into the city, the "downtown" of every song and story, made quite an impression. The pre-release screening of "The Nativity Story" was held on 42nd Street, at the 6-story AMC theater (with 25 screening rooms). Across the street, at the Loews, there was another screening--in the line waiting to show their free passes were Missionaries of Charity and Franciscan brothers. From what I gathered, yesterday's screenings were all aimed at Catholic leaders. We saw our own SSP brothers in line at the AMC, and then moved to the end of the line, hoping we were in time to get seats at this first come, first serve event. (We were an hour early, and already there were close to 150 people in line.) Well, we made it.
I give the movie 4 stars (Christmas stars, mind you). (It would have been 5 but for some hokey parts where the dialogue or acting just seemed too scripted.) The music gets 10 stars.
For maximum effect, I suggest you see this movie for the first time as Advent begins. (That would be Saturday evening.) Then see it again, every week of Advent. It is like making a biblical meditation. You could even bring a rosary and pray the first three joyful mysteries by the third or fourth week of Advent, when you will be familiar enough with the dialogue not to be distracted by the little sub-plots.
I had several favorite scenes, but my favorite character by far was Joseph. I think he was the most rounded-out of the characters, too. Mary was cute and sweet, but she didn't have much to do except ride a donkey through most of the movie. Although the scene with Joseph's bloody feet.... well, I won't spoil that for you, but it is redolant of the humbly loving gesture of Jesus himself thirty years later.
So, it's good news, in more ways than one! It's a genuine Gospel story set in film, and it's a fine piece of Hollywood cinematic art as well! Go early and often (as they say about voting in Chicago), and really send a message to the studios: this is what we want to see, and are willing to pay to see. Maybe there will be more good news in the future. After all, there are twenty mysteries of the Rosary, and this movie only covered three of them.