“No but I’ve heard that when he swishes his hair the girls go crazy.”
Danger in the Manger! (aka Nativity 2!) is the very definition of a kids’ film. It is in no way geared toward an adult audience, and its absurd plot and over-the-top characters will no doubt leave little ones in stitches.
Mr. Peterson (David Tennant, Doctor Who) has just arrived as the new teacher at St. Bernadette’s. With a very pregnant wife, a new house and a new city to contend with, the last thing he wants or expects is the absolute chaos that marks his new class. And the mastermind and driving force behind that chaos is Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton, Arthur Christmas), the man-child from the first Nativity! whose unconventional methods and general mania will leave young ones wishing he were their teacher. Mr. Poppy is the classroom assistant, and since he’s the principal’s nephew, there’s no getting rid of him.
Much to Mr. Peterson’s dismay, Mr. Poppy and the children have their hearts set on going to the “A Song for Christmas” competition, a local choir contest. Mr. Peterson hates to let everyone down, but since the administration has already told the children they cannot attend, he sees no way around it. That is, until Mr. Poppy and the children kidnap him, setting into motion a wild cross-country trip during which there is an encounter with a donkey, a river, and a baby, to name but a few. Further mucking up the works is Mr. Peterson’s discovery his estranged twin brother (also David Tennant) has also entered a choir in the competition.
The kids are definitely the stars of the show and care is taken to ensure they aren’t merely relegated to the background. I will take a moment and reiterate Danger in the Manger! is a sequel, which is important because many of the kids are not only the same characters but the same actors from the original.
You can see most of the plot unfolding well before it does; however, the target audience will not mind if they in fact even notice. The runtime is definitely padded by many musical numbers, which while pleasant to hear take away from the story. I would much rather see more David Tennant in both his roles, more of an understanding of his family’s dynamics, as well as more interaction between Tennant and the children. As it stands, the story takes place the second day he is a teacher, and thus there is a distance that is never truly overcome. However, most of the plot points are so madcap, kids watching will never miss a more grounded story. It is a shame because the potential is there.
The video transfer is a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The palette is well-timed, with warmth when necessary and cooler tones in some scenes such as the outdoors. There’s a bit of compression artifacting but it does not take away from the transfer. The audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1, which handles its payload well, keeping the dialogue, soundtrack, Foley, and additional music cues well-balanced and cohesive.
There were no special features.
I never saw the original Nativity! so I cannot speak to the enduring legacy of these films. However, I enjoyed the kids’ performances, young Jesse in particular stole every scene he was in. I’m a fan of David Tennant and think he plays both roles well. No matter what I wish was different, Danger in the Manger! is an appealing family film.