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Film / Nativity!

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Nativity! is a 2009 British comedy musical film starring Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen, Pam Ferris, Marc Wootton and Jason Watkins and directed by Debbie Isitt. It has spawned three sequels and a stage musical as of 2020.

The film focuses on Paul Maddens (Freeman), a hapless primary school teacher at St. Bernadette's Catholic School in Coventry, who has to deal with unruly pupils and irrepressible class assistant Desmond Poppy (Wootton) after the Head Teacher Pat Bevan (Ferris) tasks him with directing the school's nativity play. Smarting from his girlfriend Jennifer Lore (Jensen) leaving him at Christmas, a disastrous previous attempt at directing the Nativity and the condescending attitude of his old friend Gordon Shakespeare (Watkins) of the rival Oakmoor School, Mr. Maddens tricks the whole community into thinking his nativity play is going to be made into a Hollywood film. Soon, Maddens' lie spreads and he is forced to play along as enthusiasm and support for the St. Bernadette's Nativity Play gathers strength.

Nativity provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Mr. Maddens is forced to adopt such a facade once he realises his lie about Hollywood has gone out of control.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Always Second Best:
    • Paul Maddens to Gordon Shakespeare and Jennifer.
    • St. Bernadette's to Oakmoor.
    • Donald Peterson to his twin brother Roderick in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At one point, it looks as though there really is a Christmas star in the night sky, it turns out to the searchlight of a helicopter with Jennifer and her her boss Mr. Parker on board.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Mr. Maddens and anyone who comes near Mr. Poppy and the St. Bernadette's students.
    • Mr. Shepherd and anyone who comes near him after he loses his memory in the second sequel.
  • The Cameo: Ricky Tomlinson as the Mayor of Coventry.
  • Cheerful Child:
    • The St. Bernadette's students.
    • Lauren Shepherd in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? until her father loses his memory.
  • Darker and Edgier: Because he believes Mr. Maddens' lie about Hollywood, Mr. Shakespeare chooses to go with such an approach to the Oakmoor nativity play in the hope of upstaging St. Bernadette's.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Maddens and Gordon Shakespeare.
  • Death Glare:
    • Mr. Maddens unintentionally gives one to the press when he discovers Mr. Poppy has been spreading his lie about Hollywood to the students and other staff members.
    • Roderick Peterson and the St. Cuthbert's choir give Oakmoor a collective example upon meeting them in the first sequel.
  • The Ditz:
    • Mr. Poppy, prior to his Character Development in the second sequel.
    • Also Jeremy Shepherd in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? after Archie the donkey kicks him in the head, causing him to lose his memory.
    • Jerry Poppy in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Don't Look Down: Naturally, TJ receives such a warning when he's about to perform his deathslide scene.
    • Donald, Desmond and the students have to scale down a mountainside in the first sequel.
  • Face Palm:
    • Ollie does this twice, first with one hand, then with both.
    • Mr Maddens provides a Tear Jerker example while his students and Mr. Poppy do a video appeal to Jennifer to come back to him.
  • Fired Teacher: What happens to Mr. Maddens after Mrs Bevan finds out he and Mr. Poppy are still going through with the Nativity play after she forbade them to.
  • Foreshadowing: Mr Poppy warning the children to have a Potty Emergency before their show starts, the girl playing Mary in Nativity Rocks! misses her scene when Nature calls.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: The St. Bernadette's students, especially when compared to their Oakmoor counterparts, at one point in the first movie, Mr. Maddens has to separate two students, Alfie and Ollie who are fighting because the former said the latter would be a bad Joseph.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Gordon Shakespeare, he's always putting other people, other schools and even his own students down while inflating his own ego and talking up his school's chances of winning every competition they enter which they usually do.
    • Bradley Finch in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?.
    • Emmanuel Cavendish in Nativity Rocks! is probably the worst example of this trope in the entire franchise to date, given how he treats the whole of Coventry.
  • Jerkass: Gordon Shakespeare and to a certain extent, the critic Patrick Burns.
    • Roderick Peterson and his father in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
    • Emmanuel Cavendish in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Manchild:
    • Mr. Poppy, he is no more mature than any of the students.
    • His brother Jerry in Nativity Rocks! is no better.
  • Noodle Incident: Mr. Maddens naturally didn't want to take two children on an 11-hour flight, we don't actually see what happens on the flight but one can only imagine after seeing the expression on Mr. Maddens' face when he, William and Saffron arrive in California.
  • No-Respect Guy:
    • Mr. Maddens.
    • Donald Peterson in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Mr Maddens finds himself on the receiving end of this in a deleted scene when he is beaten up by the irate father of one of his students whom he claimed wasn't talented.
    • Doru's father in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mr. Maddens' only friend is his pet dog Cracker, until she is unintentionally Killed Offscreen by Mr. Poppy.
    • Jerry Poppy befriends a stray dog named Dodger in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Potty Emergency: Alluded to. Mr Poppy makes sure to tell everyone to make sure they use the toilet beforehand as there won't be any opportunity to do so on stage, something he apparently learned the hard way.
  • Punny Name: Burns' Victims, the name Patrick Burns usually gives to anyone who received a poor rating from him, including Mr. Maddens.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • A common occurrence in the entire franchise, particularly with Mr. Poppy on the receiving end.
    • Emmanuel Cavendish receives this from the whole of Coventry for being such a Jerkass in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. Shakespeare, given how he treats his students, especially when it comes to teaching them singing and dancing and rehearsing for their Nativity play and he even abandons one of his students in the first sequel after using her to trick St. Bernadette's into taking a wrong turn.
  • School Play: The film focuses on St. Bernadette's and Oakmoor organising their respective Nativity Plays.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stern Teacher:
    • Mr. Maddens and to a certain degree, Mrs Bevan.
    • Mrs Keen who replaces Mrs Bevan as the Headteacher in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?, she and Mr. Poppy quickly grow to dislike each other to the extent that he and the students call her Mrs Mean.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: In-Universe whenever Mr. Poppy is subjected to a The Reason You Suck speech.
  • Title Drop: Each installment naturally focuses on the titular subject and each sequel features songs named after their respective subtitles.
  • Villain Protagonist: Arguably Mr. Poppy when you realise the full extent of his actions in the first three movies.

Tropes the sequels have:

  • Break the Cutie: Lauren in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? when faced with the prospect of her father leaving her and Sophie with Bradley.
  • Character Development: Mr. Poppy starts behaving more like the responsible adult he is supposed to be in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? when he briefly becomes a Parental Substitute to Lauren.
  • Disappeared Dad: Doru is separated from his father for most of Nativity Rocks!.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Emmanuel Cavendish's secretary Bunny Sinclair in Nativity Rocks! is no less of a Jerkass than he is but refuses to stand for Cavendish openly insulting the whole of Coventry.
  • Meaningful Name: The recurring character Angel Matthews, guess what part she ends up playing in Nativity Rocks....
  • Missing Mom:
    • The Peterson twins' mother in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
    • Lauren's mother in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?, she has to remind her father of this several times after he loses his memory.
    • Doru's mother in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Mistaken Identity:
    • Mr. Poppy briefly confuses the Peterson twins in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
    • Mr. Shepherd, still suffering from memory-loss, confuses the mother and best friend of his bride-to-be Sophie before finally recognising her in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mr. Shepherd when he realises what his memory-loss and Bradley Finch's scheming is costing him after receiving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from a tearful Lauren in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Barnaby's parents in Nativity Rocks!
  • Parental Substitute: Mr. Poppy temporarily becomes this to Lauren in the second sequel after her father loses his memory.
  • Put on a Bus: What usually happens to the main characters in each movie.
  • Sibling Rivalry: The hapless Donald Peterson against his highly successful twin brother Roderick in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
  • The Unfavorite: Donald Peterson in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger, his father constantly puts him down and compares him to his twin brother Roderick, a famous choir master.

Alternative Title(s): Nativity 2 Danger In The Manger, Nativity Rocks, Nativity 3 Dude Wheres My Donkey