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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 3 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 Headteacher 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.
  • Adult Fear: Mr. Poppy forces Mr. Maddens to take two of their students to Hollywood without the prior knowledge of their boss or the kids' parents.
    • One of the kids rides a death slide suspended from Coventry Cathedral.
    • Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger depicts children being abandoned and lost in the middle of nowhere and imprisoned in a snowglobe and a baby getting abducted.
    • Doru running away to Shropshire in Nativity Rocks!.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cheerful Child: The St. Bernadette's students.
    • Lauren Shepherd in Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey? until her father loses his memory.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Maddens and Gordon Shakespeare.
  • 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!.
  • Excited Show Title!: Replicated in the 1st and 3rd sequels.
  • 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 young boys who are fighting because one said the other 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.
  • No Respect Guy: Mr. Maddens.
    • Donald Peterson in Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger.
  • Pet the Dog: Mr. Maddens' only friend is his pet dog Cracker, until Mr. Poppy unintentionally subjects her to an Off Screen Killing.
    • Jerry Poppy befriends a stray dog named Dodger in Nativity Rocks!.
  • Punny Name: Burns' Victims, the name Patrick Burns usually gives to anyone who received a poor rating from him, including Mr. Maddens.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Reason You Suck: A common occurance 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!.
  • Title Drop: Each installment naturally focuses on the titular subject and each sequel features songs named after their respective subtitles.

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.
  • Brother Chuck: Each film features different main characters, by the time of Nativity Rocks!, only Mrs Keen and the competing schools remain.
  • 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!.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Emmanuel Cavendish's secretary in Nativity Rocks! is no less of a Jerkass than his client but even he refuses to stand for Cavendish openly insulting the whole of Coventry and he promptly quits.
  • 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?.
  • Not Now, Kid: 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.
  • 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?.

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


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