Lionsgate // 2000 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 9th, 2011
The Greatest Story Ever Molded.
This stop-motion Jesus opus from over a decade ago gets resurrected on Blu-ray. The story's familiar, but the execution is remarkable.
Not much here you haven't seen: The Miracle Maker is a by-the-numbers retelling of the story of Jesus, picking up just as he's about to begin his ministry and weaving in the stories of his birth and childhood along the way, told in a series of animated flashbacks.
All the highlights are hit, as Jesus recruits His disciples, gets His healing on, intervenes on behalf of Mary Magdalene, calms the storms, raises the dead, retreats to Gethsemane, suffers betrayal and, of course, endures the Cross. Rest assured, no cliffhanger here -- we get the full-on Resurrection and Ascension.
Again, nothing you haven't seen before, either in your Sunday School's Christmas play or any number of animated classics. The big twist on the story is some point-of-view storytelling from a small child, who witnesses Christ's miracles and adventures, delivering, as one of the filmmakers describes in the accompanying interview, a sort of "child's gospel." It's a nifty approach, but not enough to differentiate Miracle Maker's take on the Greatest Story with all of its competitors.
No, what elevates the film is the stunning artistry and effort that was poured into bringing the story to life. Aside from a handful of animated scenes used mainly to fill in gaps in the story, The Miracle Maker is shot in stop-motion, populated by breathtaking, detailed puppets.
Seriously, the world that was created here is mind-boggling in its complexity. Rarely a scene goes by where I wasn't wowed by the hours of fine motor skill that no doubt went it to crafting the onscreen action. Clothing, landscapes, artifacts, cups, spoons, jars, carpets, sandals; there are just so many details to drink up. Just thinking about how this production was mounted makes my fingers hurt.
It's a disappointment that the story -- as timeless as it is -- couldn't have been given more of an edge. I'm not saying butcher the theology. That's the not the issue. The Miracle Maker is Biblically sound and inoffensive. But it's treading such well-worn Holy ground, the familiarity becomes detrimental.
On the other hand, if you're looking to add just one high-end, family-friendly telling of the Jesus story (no worries: this is a blood and scourge-free Passion) to your collection, not many more undertakings are as ambitious and impressive as this in its staging.
The Blu-ray stumbles, however. The 1.78:1, 1080p anamorphic widescreen offers only a marginal upgrade in visual fidelity, so molecular that it's borderline negligible. The detailing is soft and color flaws pop in and out. The DVD that that comes with it in the combo pack looks nearly as good when upscaled. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a solid performer and the recycled extras -- a making-of documentary, audio commentary, and storyboard comparison -- are adequate.
The Miracle Maker doesn't quite enchant, but as an examination of craft and creativity, it's a mindblower.
Not Guilty. Go haul off that scumbag Barrabas instead.
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy