Director: Debbit Isitt
Cast: David Tennant, Marc Wootton
Watch Nativity 2 online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
There’s nothing that rings alarm bells quite like the words “David Tennant plays a pair of identical twins”. But Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger tries. Very hard.
The most trying of all? Classroom assistant Mr. Poppy (Wooton). “Donkeys can fly! Isn’t that right, Mr. Peterson?” the perpetual man-child squeaks to the exasperated Mr. Peterson (David Tennant 1), who steps in to take over Class 7 at St. Bernadette’s Primary School.
Since the departure of Martin Freeman’s beloved teacher, the musical kids have been left without any dramatic contrivance to show off their skills – so when Mr. Poppy brings up the subject of the UK’s “Song for Christmas” contest, it’s only a matter of time before young body-popper Bob (Ben Wilby) and Dickens-loving private school rival Mr. Shakespeare get to strut their stuff again.
Naturally, the school says no – so Mr. Poppy and Mr. Peterson take the children on an unauthorised road trip. Two teachers kidnapping a group of children? Pam Ferris’ headmistress failing to contact Ofsted, let alone the police? Nativity 2 beggars belief almost immediately – and that’s before you get to the flying donkeys.
Enter Roderick Peterson (David Tennant 2). The snobby choirmaster has his own team of tuneful, award-winning infants – and, unlike David Tennant 1’s kindhearted father-to-be, doesn’t care what it takes to keep it that way.
The former Doctor Who star actually does a good job as the monozygotic men, clearly having fun with his hammy posh voice. The children in the cast are enjoying themselves too. But after Nativity surprised with its fun, improvised gags, that Outnumbered-style appeal has long worn off. Director Debbie Isitt does her best to make up for it with enthusiasm, but after wheeling out buses that turn into boats and X Factor audition sketches, whatever novelty Nativity had left is replaced by tired tedium.
The relentless poo jokes, though, do wear your defences down: when the big finale arrives, the musical numbers (co-written by Isitt and Nick Ager) are annoyingly infectious – “Danger, danger in the manger,” they rap, “don’t give the baby Jesus to a stranger.” As Mr. Poppy jumps around shouting about Christmas miracles, things stay firmly on the side of annoying. But credit where it’s due: Nativity 2 knows its target market. And in an age of knowing winks, adult innuendo and pop culture references, this series wins points for being aimed unashamedly at children. Add in a genuinely funny Jessica Hynes as the host of Song for Christmas and you might well find yourself feeling quite festive. Maybe, you think, this sequel isn’t so alarming after all.
Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription.
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