Reviewers of “The Nativity Story” are complaining that the story is too ordinary and boring, and that there are no surprises in the Biblically authentic tale, which shows that though the reviewers may be in sync with the zowie/blango/geewhiz/catastrophic/skin-em-alive aesthetic of the movie public (most of whom are in junior high), they are lousy theologians when it comes to the Immanent, which always arises quietly from the Ordinary. Here’s an imagined conversation between two “Holywood” moguls trying to produce the Nativity Story in a way that would make money:
X: Well, first of all, I want a blonde Mary, like a beautiful Swede!
Y: You can’t have that. The politics are impossible. She’s got to be from the Mediterranean.
X: What about an albino bedouin or Israeli?
Y: No, no. Be serious. We need someone really old to be Joseph. How about Peter O’Toole? We already know he can ride a camel.
X. Maybe. But the script has him walking alongside a donkey that’s carrying Mary.
Y. Could it be a talking donkey, like Mister Ed?
X. That’s already been done. Now, about the Immaculate Conception: I’ve got it all figured out. They say that in medieval times the theory was that she was inseminated through her ear by a Holy Dove, so we have her go to the oasis, take off her headgear to splash her face with water -- sort of symbolic baptism -- and then this bird comes down and attaches to her ear.
Y: That’s total nonsense. No actress will stand for it. It would just look like a version of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” The conventional thing is for a shaft of light to hit her face.
X: Sounds more like Jove to me. But okay. All right. Now, we can’t have a whole flotilla of sperm paying tag in this girl -- God would just have one big sperm, right?
Y: Have you been watching that Woody Allen tape again?
X: And it would glow, right? Maybe smile -- a little like a dolphin. And the ovum would welcome it with open arms -- can the ovum have pale hair?
Y: Ovums don’t have arms or hair either one. You’re nuts. You’ve been watching the science channels too much.
X: Yeah, I did see it there, only just an ordinary ovum. They’re pink, you know, so the sperms must be blue for boys.
X: So I’ve seen these new photos of whatchacallums in the womb -- zygotes, that’s it. The Messiah Zygote. Might be a catchy title. In the photos they’re all glowing, so we have this flash of light at the moment of conception, then this glowing zygote with maybe a teeny-tiny crown floating over its head. I have this great idea: we could have Mary’s belly glow, lit from within. Great visual! The couple travels across the desert in the night with Mary’s belly glowing so they don’t have to use a lantern!
Y: (Dubiously) Would it be glowing red? That might be too much like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
X: Trust me. I know just who can do the effect. Battery pack in the pregnancy prosthesis ought to do it. Then we cut to the three Kings.
Y: That’s better.
X: So to bring it up to date we have one Jewish King, one Islamic King and one Christian King.
Y: You can’t have a Christian King. There are no Christians until after Easter.
X: Well, then wannabe Christians or proto-Christians or something. And instead of coming on camels, we have a little political nuance here: one’s riding a donkey, one’s riding an elephant, and... what shall we do about the third?
Y: I dunno. Remember one of the Kings is traditionally black.
X: I thought we’d save that for the sheepherders and make them a singing group, like “The Sheepherders” -- do you think they ought to be female? That stuff they sing has a lot of high notes in it.
Y: Well...it's the angels who sing. We can do product placement for the gifts the Kings bring. Stick to precious objects, but... why not a Gameboy?
X: And then here’s the best part of all. Instead of a boring old star, when the Kings get to Bethlehem, there’s a fireworks display -- the sky is full of explosions.
Y: (Muttering) Just like modern times.
X: Then -- this is the best part -- a laser beam writes on the moon, “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!” Smokin’ !! Let’s DO it!
Y: I'll go call Mel.
X: What if he turns us down? Maybe we should put in a realistic birth with a lot of suffering and blood.
Y: Do Scientologists do Christmas? Tom is running a studio now...