Plot: After spending much of his life as a mill donkey, Bo was able to escape that fate and with the help of his dove friend Dave, leave the mill behind. He wandered into the backyard of a young woman named Mary, who fixed his injured leg and despite her husband Joseph’s concerns, allowed Bo to make himself at home. Back at the mill, Bo and Dave dreamed of being part of the royal caravan, doing important work for important people. Once his leg is healed, Bo plans to set off once again in search of the caravan, with Dave in tow. But when Mary and Joseph head to Nazareth, Bo is left behind and realizes someone is after Mary, who is pregnant with child. King Herod has sent a warrior to track down Mary and ensure that her son never becomes king, leaving Herod with all the power. This ends Bo and Dave on a wild adventure to find and protect Mary, but can a donkey and a dove be heroes?
Entertainment Value: As this movie is about the birth of Jesus, The Star has some obvious religious elements, but plays like a typical animated feature, not like an extended sermon. But if you’re offended by any faith related talk, then you’ll likely be put off by the religious references. Even so, the movie never feels overly preachy and is more about Bo’s journey than the actual faith elements, so it is more of a universal theme than you might think. The narrative is straight forward and doesn’t reinvent the wheel, giving us a lead who wants more out of life, but winds up in mishap after mishap, before his breakthrough moment. I do think the pace here is a little more deliberate, allowing the jokes room to breathe and some time to let the characters develop. So a break from the frantic, unrelenting joke machines most animated films have become was nice, though of course, younger audiences might miss the constant stimulation. But the pace is still brisk, so don’t think this is some drawn out, deep experience, it is just a little less ADD than most of its animated peers. I wouldn’t rank it as one of the better animated films out there, but it plays it safe and for most younger audiences, The Star will likely provide solid entertainment.
The voice talent involved in The Star is impressive, with a deep roster of big names and skilled performers. Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, and Aidy Bryant have the animal leads, while Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez voice Mary and Joseph, but that’s just the start of the talent here. In small roles we have Mariah Carey, Christopher Plummer, Kelly Clarkson, Ving Rhames, Oprah Winfrey, Kris Kristofferson, and Tracy Morgan, as well as numerous others. In other words, this is a pretty loaded cast and while the material is a little thin at times, I think the cast does well. Yeun carries the lead well, but it is at heart at ensemble piece, so everyone gets good chances to shine. The animation looks good, but doesn’t feel on par with Pixar or even Despicable Me level animation, with less detail and overall pop in the visuals. Not that the animation is bad, it just lacks the depth and polish you’d find in some other animated features. I doubt younger audiences will mind, given that the movie is still well animated and beautiful at times, with colorful presence and humorous character designs. I found The Star to be a b-tier animated movie, but it is still solid and younger viewers should appreciate it. I just wanted a little smarter humor and more refined visuals.