Sony Pictures Animation’s big comeback this year has not been a welcoming one. Smurfs: The Lost Village failed to win the crowd back, and The Emoji Movie was met with universal disgust. Their third feature of 2017, The Star, now has a second trailer which, in all honesty, is turning out rather questionable.
The Star retells the Nativity of Jesus in the perspective of the animals, where Bo the donkey (voiced by Steven Yeun of Voltron: Legendary Defender) and his animal friends become the unsung heroes of the first Christmas. Joining the cast include Zachary Levi (Tangled) as Joseph, Gina Rodriguez (Ferdinand) as Mary, Keegan-Michael Key (Storks) as Dave the dove, and much more.
Unlike most SPA movies which are animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks, the animation was outsourced to Cinesite Studios in Montreal, Canada for a ridiculously tiny budget of $18 million. That’s the same amount as Norm of the North‘s budget, except The Star looks much better visually than that atrocity.
The trailer also reveals the musicians/bands that will provide songs for the movie. These include Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, Zara Larsson, Yolanda Adams, A Great Big World, Casting Crowns, Jake Owen, Kirk Franklin, Jessie James Decker, Kelsea Ballerini, and Saving Forever. Fifth Harmony previously recorded the song “I’m In Love With a Monster” for SPA’s Hotel Transylvania 2.
Initially, The Star was among my most-anticipated animated movies of 2017. A widely-released animated religious movie had not been done since 1998’s The Prince of Egypt, The Jim Henson Company is helping out, and director Timothy Reckart made the wonderful Oscar-nominated animated short Head Over Heels. But the embarrassing first trailer and this new one is making me worried about the movie.
At least in the new trailer, there is no twerking dove, and I noticed a few tweaks in scenes that were in reused from the teaser. But for a movie about the Nativity of Jesus, the trailers seem to be focusing on the wrong area. The Jesus aspect has been glanced over in favour of shoehorned animal hijinks which are not humorous (though I will admit the chicken gag was alright), accompanied with out-of-place pop music. It’s a similar situation to last year’s Robinson Crusoe/The Wild Life where the animals overshadow the story’s main subject.
However, the trailer does feature a few positive aspects I’d like to point out. Outside of the film’s tiny budget and sub-par rendering, it does look visually pleasing with appealing character designs, some nice environment work, and fluid character movements. Plus the voice actors do provide some likability to the characters, though I need to know more about the characters themselves to get invested. But if this promotion does truly reflect the quality of the finished product, then consider me very disappointed.
The US release date for The Star is November 17, 2017, which is rather risky for Sony to unleash it at this time. It has to go up against DC’s much-anticipated Justice League, and Pixar’s Coco will follow just five days after. Though with the low budget, it should be possible for Sony to make a small profit from this.