This is the movie about Jesus that Mel Gibson should have made, said Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel. It's 'œa simple tale simply titled, and sweetly told.' Hardly what you'd expect from director Catherine Hardwicke, whose previous films include the gritty 'œwhat-your teenagers-are-up-to drama Thirteen.' That's what makes the film so disappointing, said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. Hardwicke ignores her usually keen 'œantennae for the troubles of teen misfits' and tells this tale of adolescent pregnancy with an all-too-familiar storybook sensibility. Keisha Castle-Hughes, a talented and expressive 16-year-old, disappoints as a stoic Virgin Mary, who accepts the news of her impregnation by the deity with hardly a blink. The journey toward Bethlehem goes off almost without incident. 'œDear God, it's all so respectable and dull!' That's the problem with movie adaptations of biblical tales, said Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. They have to tread a line between blasphemy and kitsch. Screenwriter Mike Rich has turned 'œwhat could have been an after-school special or some somber straight-to-video exercise' into a well-researched, realistic portrayal of ancient Judea. The earthy episodes of everyday life climax wonderfully in the nativity tableau itself, 'œone of the more beautiful scenes in this year's cinema.'
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