AFFIRM Films and Monarch Media teamed up for a fresh take on one of the greatest and most cherished stories ever told. In a directorial debut for Adam Anders, the Journey To Bethlehem brings a unique and enjoyable musical experience for the holiday season. With past projects including Glee and High School Musical, Anders and his team were tasked with creating a musical of biblical proportions and the first in AFFIRM films’ 17-year existence.

Whether you’re into musicals or not, Journey To Bethlehem boasts a solid balance of love, laughter, and learning to go around. As opposed to musicals that take up every ounce of space with song and dance, this live-action story surrounding Mary and Joseph balanced songs with actual cinema – a treat for those who want more “music” than musical.

Rising star Milo Manheim put on quite a performance as Joseph. His onscreen chemistry with Fiona Paloma, who plays Mary, adds credibility to the message and imagery. Their highs, lows, and unimaginable stress levels are displayed in vibrant acting and energetic performances. Antonio Banderas had a nice presence and, to my delight, it didn’t overshadow the other performers.

If you align the musical with the Bible, the story starts in the Book of Matthew. He begins by detailing the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. Starting from verse 18, he gives details on how Jesus was born, who his parents were, and how the entire process fulfilled the prophecy that had been told generations ago in the Old Testament. Adam Anders & Co. took a mere two chapters out of the Book of Matthew and turned it into a full-length movie.

The direction is focused more on songs, dancing, and humor, than say, going word-for-word by the Bible. For example, many Christians know the story of David, and his story often runs parallel with motivational speaking and sports references about the “little guy” overcoming big-time adversity. Yet, those stories skip the part about David severing the head of Goliath. In the same way, Journey To Bethlehem, appropriately, “tap dances” around the inevitable orders written in scripture by Herod. So if you had content concerns for children (or even church) there’s no need to worry.

Journey To Bethlehem gets a 9 out of 10. It’s truly a film that the whole family can enjoy. The timing is perfect as we’re two weeks away from Thanksgiving and over a month from Christmas. The only thing I didn’t like was how the film ended (it could’ve been better and felt rushed). Time flew by and it seemed like the movie ended right when I had reached peak enjoyment, but for families with kids, 98 minutes is probably long enough.

-Jon Jones

Photos: Courtesy of AFFIRM Films

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