Martin Freeman stars as Mr. Maddens, a luckless primary school teacher charged with producing the annual nativity play. A rival school production being staged by an old enemy prompts Maddens to make an outrageous claim that could not only ruin his career but devastate his young cast. With the help of his eccentric teaching assistant, can Mr. Maddens pull off a Christmas miracle?
Martin Freeman is the absolute master of the hangdog look. His crumpled face looks over this film with a resolutely disheartened air. One look at him tells you all you need to know; he is profoundly and utterly fed up. At least the character in the movie is!
Mr. Maddens’s life is all about missed opportunities (he lets his high achieving girlfriend slip through his fingers), bad luck (being saddled with the worst teaching assistant ever) and social impotence (his only real friend has become his hated rival at the neighbouring private school). After being given the thankless job of the school nativity he makes an offhand remark that the production is being filmed by a Hollywood movie company. Before he knows it, the whole school and all the children believe his lie and he begins to dig himself into a deeper hole.
His saviour comes in the form of Marc Wooton as Mr. Poppy, a curious man-child who relates to the children on their own level. His enthusiasm is the drive for the movie and he provides some of the biggest laughs. All the kids are great, not the usual sugary sweet moppets you normally have to endure in festive films.
What emerges is a thoroughly entertaining and off beat Christmas caper that ticks all the boxes along the way. You will know exactly where it’s heading but you will love the journey.
Both Martin Freeman and co-star Ashley Jensen got their big breaks from Ricky Gervais. Freeman in The Office and Jensen in Extras.