Yes, Virginia, There Was A ‘Nativity 1’
Comedy doesn’t travel well, historically. It’s rare to find a giant comedy that performs as well abroad as it does in the U.S — instead, each nation will have their own box office draws in the genre, with only the occasional slapstick hit, like the current “Johnny English Reborn,” going great guns internationally (but dying in the States), uniting comedy fans worldwide. As such, it’s easy to miss these localized box-office phenomena. Like “The Inbetweeners Movie,” a big-screen take on the crude British sitcom, currently the third-biggest film of 2011 in the U.K. Like “Le Petit Nicolas,” an adaptation of a beloved childhood character that was France’s top-grossing home-grown hit of 2009. Or like “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis,” and its Italian-language remake “Benvenuti al Sud,” which mined millions of Euros out of local cultural stereotypes.
And it’s particularly hard to miss when one of these hits is as modest as “Nativity!” From playwright-turned-filmmaker Debbie Isitt (“Confetti“), it was a firmly-family-aimed comedy about a schoolteacher (a pre-Watson & Bilbo Martin Freeman) who tells a white lie about a Hollywood producer planning to visit his school’s annual Christmas nativity play to turn it into a movie, leading to a fervor of excitement. Despite opening in the vicinity of behemoth “Avatar,” it managed to be something of a sleeper hit, taking in upwards of £5 million, and proving a big seller on DVD, so, unsuprisingly, a sequel is on the way.
With Freeman tied up on Middle Earth duties, the film needs a new lead, and according to Variety, it’s found it in the shape of former “Doctor Who” star David Tennant, who will be taking double duties in the project, playing two twins, one leading a group of underachieving kids in a national Nativity contest (!?), the other his brother, a teacher at a rich private school. It’s hard not to see this as Tennant scurrying back home with his tail between his legs after his big Hollywood coming-out party “Fright Night” tanked, but that’s a shame, as the film flopping wasn’t his fault, and he was pretty good value in it. Still, he’s got rom-com “The Decoy Bride,” with Alice Eve and Kelly Macdonald, on the way, so that might pick things up again.
He’s got some company for the project, at least, as Screen Daily says that Joanna Page, star of hit sitcom “Gavin and Stacy,” but probably best known internationally for her nude turn opposite Freeman in “Love Actually,” is also aboard, presumably in some kind of love-interest role. There’s also a few returning faces: Marc Wootton (“Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel“) is back as sidekick Mr. Poppy, Jason Watkins (“Being Human“) will return as the villainous Gordon Shakespeare, and the great Pam Ferris (“Children of Men“) is also on board. Shooting’s underway now in the Midlands, and Entertainment One will release around the holiday season in the U.K in 2012. We’d be surprised if this makes its way to the U.S, seeing as the first one never did, although Tennant’s sci-fi fan base may create enough demand for a DVD release, we suppose.