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Journey to Bethlehem

When I first heard of Journey to Bethlehem, my immediate thought was, "Didn't they just make The Nativity Story a few years ago?". Turns out that came out in 2006...

Anyway, Journey to Bethlehem is a 2023 musical comedy based on the birth of Jesus. It was directed by Adam Anders and stars Fiona Palomo as Mary, Milo Manheim as Joseph, and Antonio Banderas as King Herod.

Remember in my comparitive review of three Exodus adapations when I said Exodus: Gods & Kings wasn't an adaptation of the Book of Exodus, it was a re-imagining of The Ten Commandments? Well, Journey to Bethlehem isn't an adaptation of the birth of Jesus, it's a reimagining of The Nativity Story.

They changed so much of the story for the sake of change, added unnesecary drama and tension (such as Mary not even really liking Joseph until the very end), and dumbed down the Archangel Gabriel. Like, he appears in Mary's room, then it does a montage of him rehearsing what he's going to say. Once he's settled on a wording, he levitates and floats forward before bumping his head on a doorframe. Mary is asleep and he keeps whispering her name. Finally, he yells her name, she wakes up and screams, and he shouts, "BE NOT AFRAID" and she screams again. I think in any other story it'd have been a funny scene. But considering the seriousness of the event and who they are portraying, I think it was in poor taste.

There's a bunch about this movie I wasn't a fan of. Most of it has to do with what they changed and added. The actors, however, did a great job with what they were given. I don't really have any issues with the actors. Antonio Banderas as Herod was great. They made his character bafoonish, but I think that makes more sense considering he's the villain of the story. Most of the comedy of the film in my opinion came from his scenes.

Considering this is a musical, it'd be weird if I never addressed that part of it. I'm a fan of musicals, so I'd actually been listening to the soundtrack leading up to seeing it, so I knew what I was getting into. The music is very good. Not a fan of the movie, but I would recommend checking out the soundtrack.

Normally I'd say "none of this matters if the Christian message is good", but this is literally the birth of Jesus! Other than the crucifiction and ressurection, this is one of the biggest Christian stories. They kept the most important aspects of the story, but again, if you want a more accurate movie telling this story, watch The Naticity Story. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's streaming anywhere.

I give Journey to Bethlehem a 6 out of 10. Mostly for the music and Antonio Banderas' scenes.


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