A solid animation that Christian parents will love and casual viewers may take to
When he decides to quit his job as a carpenter, everyone thinks Jesus has perhaps flipped but his mother knows that this "father's work" that he speaks of is in fact God's mission for him on Earth. Jesus sets off to tell the people how things should be, gathering a group of men (disciples) around him as he goes. His message is simple but it is not met well by the religious leaders of the day. Seeing the passion and zeal he brings to the people, these leaders plan to accuse him of blasphemy and see him removed from the spotlight in a bloody and permanent fashion.
Whenever I watch a film I try to view it as objectively as possible, ignoring my own preconceptions, media hype etc. With this film I will set aside my opinions on the subject matter but will admit that, if you are a Christian with kids then you'll probably love this movie because it does a great job of presenting Jesus in an accessible and convincing way without making it into a Pixar or Disney Happy Meal type product. The plot is well-known but the film still does a good job with it, careful with what it drops and what it includes, building the main blocks of the tale and allowing enough to be hammered home without doing so much that it would overwhelm with events. The animation is well done; the models are smooth and match the action well, while the variations into other styles is used to make a point or to expand the limited scope of the models and their backgrounds.
The voice cast is pretty close to being stellar and they certainly helped the film sell. Fiennes is OK as Jesus but I didn't think he delved deep for a character perhaps an unfair complaint since this is aimed at kids and therefore not a performance that called for complexity or interpretation. Holm is good as Pilate; Hurt is strong in a foundation role, important in building the story on a personal level for kids. Grant is a strange John the Baptist mainly because he sounds very like Richard E. Grant and it doesn't seem right! Stott is unmistakably but a very good Peter. Support from Massey, Molina, Peck, Thewlis, Christie and others all help the voice work add to the classy feel of this film certainly they raise the film above the Sunday school cartoon level that lesser actors could have seen it stuck at.
Overall a good film on several levels. Christians with kids will love it because it gets the message across without being "educational" in a way that puts off kids and without being the other extreme of being a glossy cartoon. However the casual viewer may enjoy it as well, because the voice work is roundly strong, the animation professional and the story told in a manner that is well delivered and watchable. Considering the millions who went to see the lesser "Passion of the Christ", this film deserves to have many more viewers.
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