12 Days of Netflix: Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey?
James R | On 14, Dec 2020
Director: Debbie Isitt
Cast: Martin Clunes, Marc Wootton, Catherine Tate, Celia Imrie, Jason Watkins, Adam Garcia
Watch Nativity 3 online in the UK: Netflix UK
Remember when flash mobs were a thing? Even when Nativity 3: Dude Where’s My Donkey? was released in 2014, they were a distant memory – and the fact that this festive sequel hinges its plot upon something so awkwardly dated should be a warning sign for families looking for something warm to watch together on a cold Christmas evening.
Debbie Isitt’s franchise, which focuses on a group of semi-improvising children from a primary school that have a penchant for putting on a show, was once one of the warmest festive treats around – the first film, starring Martin Freeman as a jaded teacher tasked with putting on a nativity musical, was a genuine delight, balancing toe-tapping songs and an enthusiastic young cast with an amusingly relatable scenario. Two films down the line, Nativity 3 has gone from being childlike in its joy to simply being childish – any sparkly or shine has sadly worn off.
Martin Clunes here steps into the role of the teacher figure – or, to be exact, an Ofsted inspector mistaken for a teacher who is getting ready to marry his fiancee, Sophie (Catherine Tate), in New York. But a knock on the head later and he’s forgotten who he is, leaving Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton) and his class free to run riot with their plans to enter a flash mob competition and win the prize of performing on the Empire State Building.
Wootton’s exuberant manchild has long been one of the selling points of the series, and his buoyant, loud excitable presence does raise the odd giggle here – his comic timing and relentless charisma is hard for even the grumpiest of Scrooges to resist. But the rest of the film is embarrassingly lacking in originality, logic or (crucially) laughs. Jason Watkins returns as posh schoolteacher Gordon Shakespeare, but while he’s clearly having enjoying himself, the same can’t be said for anyone watching; it makes no sense for his school to be taking part in a flash mob contest, and it’s doubtful that the script even understands what a flash mob is anyway.
And yet, with the film more focused on Martin Clunes’ gormless adult trying to win back a bride he can’t remember, all of that fades into the background. This leaves Nativity 3 not only missing a donkey, but also missing some catchy tunes and any semblance of what made the first film in the franchise so fun to begin with. The fact that it lasts for 1 hour and 50 minutes is the icing on a particularly bad-tasting cake. Dude, Where’s My Donkey? isn’t the only question you’ll be asking yourself by the time the end credits arrive.
Nativity 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.