Journey to Bethlehem (2023)
Updated: Nov 16
Reviewed by Richard Bressler
Journey to Bethlehem begins with the time-honored traditional movie title card reading "Based on a True Story", followed quickly by "The Greatest Story Ever Told". If you've seen the trailer for the film, you'll know going in that it's going to take a bit of creative license with the biblical story. There's a lot of singing and dancing that I don't remember reading about in any of the four Gospels, and the idea of turning the birth story of our beloved Savior into a musical romantic comedy may seem to some to be bordering on blasphemy, but don't let any of that stop you from seeing this incredibly charming movie!
This heartwarming film tells the story of a young couple, Mary (Fiona Palomo) and Joseph (Milo Manheim), who face several challenges as they travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem right before the birth of their son. It provides a unique perspective on the nativity story we know from the Bible. Since this is a romantic comedy it hits all the tropes of that particular genre. There's a meet-cute where the couple bump into each other in the market before they know that they're betrothed to each other, followed by the classic misunderstanding that causes them to wonder if it's even worth it to go on with the engagement. Director Adam Anders, one half of the duo behind the music for "Glee", handles all of this quite well, throwing in dashes of humor as the film goes along. There's several running jokes throughout the film, including one about what exactly myrrh's usefulness is.
Also starring is Antonio Banderas, chewing the scenery quite well as the villain King Herod. Joel Smallbone, one half of the group For King and Country, plays his son Antipater who is tasked with finding the King about to be born and eliminating the potential threat to his father's reign. Christian rap star Lecrae has a great role as the angel Gabriel, at once both commanding in his presence and truly hilarious in his first moments onscreen. The three wise men also bring the comedic relief as they follow the star to Bethlehem.
I haven't even mentioned the music which is really outstanding. Director Adam Anders and his wife Nikki have penned some truly wonderful songs, in the same vein as the music for "The Greatest Showman". Antonio Banderas may actually steal the show with his show-stopping number "It's Good to Be King".
This is a wonderful family film. The movie highlights the courage and faith Mary and Joseph needed to overcome each trial along their journey. It also shows the providence of God in guiding them to safety. The nativity scenes were beautifully done, transporting you right into that stable with the shepherds gathered round. And the birth moment was handled tastefully and powerfully. Overall, it was a touching retelling of a familiar story that's worth watching this Christmas season, especially if you want to reconnect with the heart of the nativity. I encourage everyone to see it in the theaters while they can. Journey to Bethlehem is now showing at the Malco Towne Cinema in Jonesboro. Highly recommended.