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Review of Journey to Bethlehem

Maria Montemayor

Friday, November 24, 2023

What if Mary and Joseph met before their betrothal? How did King Herod and his son feel about the birth of a new king? "Journey to Bethlehem" answers these questions and more. However, if you are looking for a scripturally accurate film, look elsewhere, "Journey to Bethlehem" takes a lot of creative liberties with the characters and story surrounding Christ’s birth. 
In the movie, Mary (Fiona Palomo) is questioning and defiant, disappointed at giving up her dream of becoming a teacher in order to get married. Joseph (Milo Manheim) is charming and handsome but not naive. When faced with Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, he sings a song ("The Ultimate Deception") about how conflicted he feels. His feelings are not unreasonable, especially given that Mary was also suspicious of him when they first met.      
King Herod (Antonio Banderas) comes across as an angry and bitter villain, wanting to maintain his prominence. In the film, he lords his power over his son. It would have been interesting to see a softer side to Herod, but his personality was realistic, and his pump up song ("Good to be King") was lively. 
Contrasting the drama between Mary and Joseph and the temper of King Herod, the three Wise Men provide comedic relief. While some may view the humorous moments in the movie as irreverent or unnecessary, they add humanity and lightheartedness to a story often told from a solemn perspective. The Wise Men were naturally funny, and I chuckled when they spoke about dates and camels, reminded of my time in Israel and Egypt.
A real strength of this film is the music. Each song helps move the story forward in a riveting manner. In my theatre, the background music overpowered the vocalists, but I went back to YouTube to listen to the songs again because I wanted to fully enjoy them. 
If you like musicals and can view the movie purely as historical fiction, then you will find it entertaining. If you can’t get past seeing the movie through a biblical lens, you might be bothered by the way the characters are portrayed. Although the movie is catered to Christians, it’s safe to bring friends of other faiths to watch so long as they understand that it’s not an accurate depiction of the Nativity story. Despite the use of artistic license, the importance of Christ's birth is still evident in the film. 

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