"Interesting Concept, Flawed Execution"
Director Bret Miller and screenwriter DJ Perry delve into the mystery that surrounds the Magi of the Christmas story in CHASING THE STAR. While weak performances and a mediocre screenplay hurt this movie, Miller and Perry’s take on the journey of the Magi from their false faith to faith in the true God is genuinely interesting and theologically significant.
CHASING THE STAR only loosely follows the biblical account, instead diving deep into the inner lives of the three Magi who made that famous journey. Each wise man comes to this story with deep individual struggles, which are told largely in flashback as they hunker down beneath a raging desert storm. One Magi loves a girl who is not a possibility for him; and, another Magi leaves behind a family in poverty to make the journey. These imaginings of the Magi’s personal baggage are interesting and, while fictitious, do seem as if they could be part of the biblical Christmas story. Other elements of the plot directly contradict the biblical and historical account, or are generally hard to tie in with the story we already know.
Perry’s screenplay struggles in its attempt to tell not just the individual stories of the three Magi, but also the story of Herod and a larger story of spiritual warfare. These various threads and narratives are confusing to follow. The audience isn’t helped by the dialogue, which abandons specificity in favor of lines which often sound like movie quotes combed from other movies and simply pasted into the script. Weak performances also plague the movie, but are balanced by a few strong actors who really shine (such as Taymour Ghazi as the Devil).
The most interesting piece of the whole movie is Miller and Perry’s imagining of the Magi faith. Their false religion shares some elements with Christianity (a “one true” god, a focus on redemption, etc.), but is substantially different in other ways (good deeds are salvific to these Magi, for example). In the desert storm, these similarities and differences are flushed out and the Magi encounter Gabriel, who invites them on a journey of true faith. Each of the three must discover how God can fill the unique hole in his heart. In this way, Miller and Perry use the Magi faith to glorify the real God. It’s a fascinating plot device, and makes this movie more of a coming-to-faith story than a retelling of the Christmas story.
In general, the three protagonists in the movie display clear biblical values, even despite their false religion. Each man struggles to put away sin in his life and follow the path God has laid out for him. There are a few violent moments in the story including a near-suicide and a beating. Caution for younger children as these moments, as well as the depictions of the Devil and demons, may be disturbing.
CHASING THE STAR follows the Magi of the Christmas story as they chase the star to the newborn Messiah, Jesus. Each of the three Magi come to their famous journey with deep personal struggles born out in the harsh desert. The second act is told largely in flashback, as the individual stories of each Magi come to light. Their false religion is challenged when the one true God meets these three men and exposes their struggles, simultaneously inviting them on a journey of true faith.
Director Bret Miller and Writer DJ Perry have crafted a dark and confusing take on the Magi story. Questionable biblical/historical accuracy and a mediocre screenplay hurt this movie. The most interesting piece is the Magi’s journey of faith. Their false religion, which they carry through most of the movie, has some similarities with Christianity (a “one true” god, a focus on redemption, etc.), but ultimately, it’s found to be inadequate in the face of true faith in the true God. Caution is advised for young viewers, as some scenes of violence or imagined violence may be disturbing.