Journey to Bethlehem Blu-ray Review: Joyful, Joyful, Movie, I Adore Thee

As a Christian, I will admit that movies catered toward my demographic are mostly hard to stomach. They usually come off as having little effort or creative output, but they will preach its message to an awkward point. However, there have been a recent string of movies with religious themes that have been well-crafted and enjoyable, and I will happily admit to that. After Death is one recent example, which is a documentary about people’s experiences when they died but then came back to life. American Underdog, the true story of Kurt Warner, is another example. Going into Journey to Bethlehem, I was curious how a studio could recreate the birth of Christ in musical form – with mostly new songs.

It does start off a little rough. The first few songs are too poppy and auto-tuned. Mary (portrayed by Fiona Palomo) is introduced as someone who is hesitant about getting married. She feels it’s being forced upon her, and she doesn’t have a say in the matter. It’s an interesting spin on the story, but the song she and others sing, “Mary’s Getting Married,” is too over-produced and borderline Mamma Mia!, But once we get past the 15-minute mark of this 98-minute movie, it kicks into a different gear and becomes extremely charming.

The highlight of the film is Antonio Banderas as King Herod. He portrays the character with so much over-the-top bravado that is fun to watch every time he’s on screen. While his appearance in the overall film is brief, he brings a tremendous amount of energy to his performance. And his song, “Good to Be King,” is a blast.

I don’t think I need to repeat the plot of the film, as the story has been told many times before. Mary eventually becomes pregnant with the son of God, and she later falls in love with a man named Joseph (Milo Manheim). They have a meet cute moment, but there’s never an ounce of falseness in their chemistry. Both Manheim and Palomo are magnetic to watch onscreen, and their song, “We Become We,” is lovely.

Journey to Bethlehem is a fun recreation of the story of the birth of Christ. Despite a few missteps in the beginning of the movie, the songs are a treat to hear, and a lot of the performances are enjoyable. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, especially when the three wise men appear in the movie. There is quite a bit of creative licensing that takes place, but the crew do it in such a way that is respectful to Christianity and to the original source material.

The Blu-ray for Journey to Bethlehem has an excellent transfer that makes the colors pop during the musical numbers. While the budget constraints are shown in some of the visuals, the overall picture aspect is terrific. The audio comes through clearly, so you can hear all the songs without any issues. There are quite a few deleted and extended scenes, as well as interviews with the cast and crew. The special features are short, but they are interesting to watch people discuss the movie.

Maybe I’m more forgiving than other reviewers, but I thoroughly enjoyed Journey to Bethlehem and its charm. Rough around the edges, for sure, but it’s a treat that the whole family can enjoy.

Buy Journey to Bethlehem on Blu-ray
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David Wangberg

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