With Christmas only a few weeks away, Journey to Bethlehem targets the family crowd for a humorous retelling of the “greatest story ever told.” It almost feels like a Disney film, with Fiona Palomo as the ambitious, kindhearted Mary and Milo Manheim as the flirtatious, empathetic Joseph. Director Adam Anders has taken enough creative liberty to make his musical film more appealing to the younger crowd. You will be reminded of Disney musical films like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and even Tangled! I could only think of the angry white horse, Maximus, from Tangled when Fig, the donkey, was introduced.
Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
As previously mentioned, Adam Anders’ film isn’t a faithful adaptation of the true biblical events that revolves around Christ’s birth. In the film, we are introduced to an ambitious Mary, who dreams of becoming a teacher. She was heartbroken when her father announced her marriage. Mary was also opposed to the idea of marrying a stranger, but her parents believed Joseph was the perfect match for her. She was torn between making her family happy and following her own dreams, but eventually, her sisters convinced her that marriage was not really as awful as she assumed it to be. Her mother helped her understand that she must obey God’s plan for her. Mary later realized how right her mother was; she could have never anticipated what she had in store for the future and how important Joseph would be in her journey. Mary met a young, flirtatious man at the market who did not walk away even after finding out that she was betrothed. During the betrothal ceremony, Mary finally met her future husband, and he turned out to be the guy she stumbled upon at the market. Mary felt cheated, knowing that the person she was to marry did not care about the commitment he had made before. Joseph described how his parents pressured him into getting married, even though he had no interest in doing so. Since Journey to Bethlehem is a musical, our characters break into a song, “Can We Make This Work,” to resolve their conflict.
The archangel Gabriel paid a visit to Mary after Joseph and Mary decided to wed. Gabriel, portrayed by Lecrae, is presented as a bit of an awkward angel who practices his lines several times before going up to Mary to tell her the good news. Mary was in disbelief when Gabriel informed her that she would become the mother of the King of All Kings. It was shocking for Mary when she learned that God Almighty had chosen her to give birth to His son. She believed she was just an ordinary woman, but Gabriel reminded her she had proven her worth. Even if she wanted to fool herself by thinking it was a dream, she knew she would be lying to herself. She needed to break the news to others, and she wondered if anyone would believe the prophecy. Her parents were surprised when she discussed the entire conversation she had with the angel. They found it impossible to believe that a virgin girl could get pregnant, and when Joseph found out, he decided to break the marriage. Joseph partly wanted to believe Mary, but his parents doubted her. To give birth, Mary had to leave Nazareth and reside in Hebron. The three Magi in Journey to Bethlehem are being compared to the Three Stooges, and rightfully so. The three kings are comical and peculiar in their own way, and they follow the bright star in the sky to witness the miracle.
How Did The Film Show Christ’s Birth?
To add more to the threat, we have Antonio Banderas playing the ruthless, evil King Harod. Banderas steals the show, and his “Good to Be King” is entertaining. When the three Magi approached the King and told him about the prophecy, he felt threatened. The merciless King was ready to kill every pregnant woman to get rid of any potential competitor to the throne, but his son objected to it. He proposed the conducting of a census to find the virgin pregnant peasant woman and also to respect the command from Rome. Meanwhile, through dreams, Joseph realized the crucial role he would play in the birth of the Son of God. He felt contradictory, but eventually, he decided that all he wanted was to be by Mary’s side. Joseph traveled to Hebron and reunited with Mary. Joseph was surprised to see the soldiers he had seen in his dream appear in reality. They were searching for Mary, and the only option they had was to get married. Joseph and Mary got married that night to fool the kingsmen. The lovers sing “We Become We” to celebrate the joyous occasion.
They returned to Nazareth only to be harassed by the King’s men; they were asked to travel to Bethlehem for the census. Even though Mary was heavily pregnant, she was asked to make the long trip. She agreed, knowing she did not have a choice. After spending several grueling hours traveling, the journey to Bethlehem was successful. Upon seeing Harod’s son, Mary and Joseph decided to enter Bethlehem through another route. Mary could feel she was close, and she needed a safe place to deliver her son. Seeing the position of the star, the Magi deduced that their wait was over, and they would finally meet the King of All Kings. They had been waiting their entire lives for this moment, and they prepared to welcome the Son of God. After reaching Bethlehem, Joseph tried to find a place for Mary to deliver.
During Journey to Bethlehem‘s ending, Joseph brought Mary to an old barn to give birth. The star shone brighter than ever before, declaring to the world that the savior of mankind had been born. Even the ones who once doubted Mary now knew she had been telling the truth all along. The baby was finally born, and the angels in the sky sang in unison. The Magi reached the barn and finally witnessed the prophecy come to life. King Harod’s son followed the three kings to the barn, and instead of attacking them, he proposed that they talk. Surprisingly, the King’s son happened to be a lot different than his father. He did not consider the birth to be a threat, unlike his father, who was ready to burn the land to the ground to keep the crown on his head. He realized that the child was meant to be more than just the King of Judea, and Mary added that Jesus was born to save the ones who were lost. The King’s son expressed that he found it strange that a child born in filth was meant to be the chosen one, but when he saw the child, he knew the truth in his heart. The King’s army was ready to kill the child, but at the end of Journey to Bethlehem, Harod’s son stopped them and allowed Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to leave Judea. He was risking his life even though he believed he lacked faith—something in him told him he was doing the right thing. Joseph and Mary prepared to leave with their son for Egypt, and the Magi gifted them things that would turn out to be essential in their journey. We witness a time-lapse, and finally, in the end, Mary and Joseph tell little Emmanuel how he was born.
Journey to Bethlehem revolves around the birth of Christ and the hardship that Mary and Joseph had to live through to give birth to the Chosen One. While the film tries to approach the age-old tale with a fresh approach, there are, of course, limitations. The characters aimed to be more relatable, with a rebellious young girl and a flirty peasant boy at the center of it, but in the end, one has to stick to the original. Journey to Bethlehem is not a film for kids to take notes from, but surely it can be enjoyed with family during Christmas.