The Miracle Maker [DVD}

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This animated feature-length life of Jesus boasts a stellar pedigree. Originally a BBC Wales production, it showcases the voices of some of Britains finest actors in any medium: Ralph Fiennes as a brooding and humble Jesus, Miranda Richardson as Mary Magdalene, Richard E. Grant as John the Baptist and David Thewlis as Judas. The lovely, flute-heavy score is by Oscar-winner Anne Dudley (The Full Monty). And clearly a lot of expense has gone into the Claymation-like animation. But while its hard to find fault with the rendering of this familiar story--it is respectful and definitely done, you might say, by the Book--it would have been nice if there had been a tad more joy, if it walked a bit lighter in its sandals. As it is, all the characters seem consistently subdued, whether they are expressing angst, rage, terror or bliss--none of which is helped by the figures blank-eyed stares (if animators are becoming ever more sophisticated, why cant they get rid of those creepy blank gazes once and for all?). Still, the weight of having such formidable actors play these familiar roles lends the production a certain credibility, and parents looking for good religious videos that wont insult their kids intelligence will be thrilled.

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