That Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey? takes its title from a 2000 movie starring Ashton Kutcher and Stifler and has at the center a global flashmob competition tells you all you need to know about the creative bona fides of this film. Debbie Isitt once again takes the helm in the third installment of this Christmas series, though it’s a bit disingenuous to say that anyone is really in charge here. As she did with her previous two movies, Isitt gives her actors free reign on dialogue and just about everything else, resulting in what can be safely called a bad night of improvisational comedy recorded for all posterity.
Marc Wootton has been the one constant. He appears in all the films and manages with reckless, squealy abandon to sabotage each one. I’m not inclined to root against cute children, but when his pint-sized charges so willingly attach themselves to his poo-loving, anarchist teacher’s aide character, Mr Poppy, I kind of want the disciplined toffs to win, and that includes Mr Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) and his overachieving band of stage kids.
This time, all are vying for a coveted national flashmob title and a chance to perform atop the Empire State Building. Discerning audiences will see this as a platform for splashy shoots at (mostly) London landmarks, especially since outdated dance crazes aren’t the film’s main focus. St Bernadette’s, the Coventry primary school in the middle of all this, is also due for an Ofstead inspection. This has everyone on edge, including Mrs Keen (Celia Imrie), the temporary headmistress. Not one to let things slide, she banishes Mr Poppy and his donkey in order to literally clear the shit from the halls.
And just when you thought two incongruous plot lines were enough, enter Jeremy Shepherd (Martin Clunes), whose daughter Lauren (Lauren Hobbs) is a new student at St Bernadette’s. He’s engaged to Sophie (Catherine Tate), whose former boyfriend is world famous flash mobber Bradley Finch (a deliciously skeezy Adam Garcia). A run-in with Mr Poppy’s donkey, however, leaves Jeremy with a poorly timed case of memory loss – and it’s almost Christmas Day!
It’s not a pleasant experience watching these various stories crash into each other. It’s as if absent a story, Isitt believes a bunch of holiday distractions will do the trick. There’s an ATV elf chase, a man dressed as a snow pig, and an overreliance on the Andrews Sisters. A last minute turn towards the sentimental also plays out more like a gimmick. Maybe most disappointing is the lack of inspiring soundtrack. Even the subpar sequel delivered some playlist-friendly tunes. Let’s hope this is where the buck/donkey stops on this franchise.
Prod: Nick Jones
Dir: Debbie Isitt
Writer: Debbie Isitt
Cast: Martin Clunes, Marc Wootton, Lauren Hobbs, Catherine Tate, Celia Imrie, Adam Garcia, Jason Watkins
Time: 110 min
Country: United Kingdom