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Adam Anders
Fiona Palomo, Milo Manheim, Antonio Banderas
Writing Credits:
Adam Anders, Peter Barsocchini

A musical take on the birth of Jesus.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$2,400,446 on 2002 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

99 min.
Price: $38.99
Release Date: 1/16/2024

• “The Heart of Journey to Bethlehem” Featurette
• 4 “Meet…” Featurettes
• 3 Deleted & Extended Scenes
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Journey to Bethlehem [Blu-Ray] (2023)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 18, 2024)

Do audiences need another telling of the events that surrounded the birth of Jesus? Probably not, but at least 2023’s Journey to Bethlehem offers a bit of a twist, as it delivers a live-action musical.

Mary (Fiona Paloma) finds herself forced into an arranged marriage, a prospect that leaves the independent young woman unhappy and disheartened. To her surprise, she learns she will marry Joseph (Milo Manheim), a local merchant she happened to click with when they bumped into each other before they learned of their pre-ordained commitment.

After some friction, Mary and Joseph fall in love with each other and she soon becomes pregnant despite the fact these two never did the deed. The new couple deals with a mix of challenges as Mary copes with her apparent status as the mother of the savior.

To put it mildly, I go into faith-based films with a lot of skepticism. This occurs partly due to my own lack of real religious belief, but it happens more because movies made from a Christian POV tend to be clumsy and mawkish.

This meant I entered Journey without a whole lot of hope it’d offer something other than the same old same old. To my surprise, the film actually takes some chances.

Though I can’t claim all of these succeed. In particular, Journey can favor a comedic bent that seems forced and awkward.

This pops up from the start, as our intro to the Three Wise Men opts for silly stabs at laughs. These choices don’t actively harm the movie, but they feel self-conscious, as if the filmmakers want to say “hey kids, we’re not stuffy – we’re gonna have some fun with the Bible!”

I do appreciate the fact Journey doesn’t treat the subject matter as ponderous and overly somber. However, the comedy doesn’t work as often as the movie hopes it will, so these moments can seem clunky.

Other liberties relate to the portrayal of Mary, who gets a very 21st century makeover. Rather than act as the passive character we see in most Bible stories, the Mary of Journey offers a firmly feminist role.

On one hand, this also comes across as pandering to a theoretical modern/young audience. It feels like the filmmakers think they need to offer a Mary more relateable to this crowd, so the flick gives her a spunkiness and desire for independence that probably wouldn’t match the reality of society more than 2000 years ago.

On the other hand, I appreciate the attempts to offer a spin on matters. While Journey’s Mary lacks a sense of verisimilitude, she becomes a reasonably interesting character, so I view that as a plus.

Journey also gives Joseph a bit more kick. The film devotes a surprising amount of time to the controversies related to Mary’s virgin pregnancy, and that allows Joseph some extra development.

According to a super-religious friend, the Bible addresses this domain to a modest degree but it doesn’t spend much time on the skepticism one assumes Joseph and others would have in this situation. Journey expands the subject in a manner that makes sense and also allows for greater depth to the characters.

The actors largely do fine in their parts. As our leads, Palomo and Manheim manage reasonable charm.

We get Antonio Banderas as King Herod, and he camps up a storm. Even in a film with some comedy, he goes over the top, but he spends too little time on screen to actively harm the movie.

Ultimately, Journey winds up as a film I don’t think excels but also one that I feel fares considerably better than I anticipated. Although it comes with flaws and inconsistencies, it moves at a brisk pace and offers a more engaging tale than expected.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Journey to Bethlehem appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a pretty terrific presentation.

Sharpness worked well. Nary a sliver of softness materialized through this precise and accurate image.

I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to manifest. Print flaws also never became an issue.

Colors leaned heavily toward amber/orange, with some reds/teal as well. Though the hues seemed predictable for modern films, the Blu-ray exhibited them well.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows felt smooth and concise. I felt wholly pleased with this strong image.

As expected, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Journey focused largely on music. The score and songs broadened across the channels in a vivid manner.

Effects came with less to do, but the soundscape used them in a positive way. This meant various crowd elements and a few more “action-oriented” segments managed to open up matters acceptably well, even if nothing ever seemed especially ambitious.

Audio quality satisfied, with speech that appeared distinctive and concise. Effects felt accurate and well-reproduced.

Music showed solid range, with tight highs and warm lows. This became a positive mix for a musical.

When we shift to extras, we get four featurettes under the Meet… banner: “Meet Mary and Joseph” (2:26), “Meet Fig” (2:10), “Meet Mary’s Sisters” (2:00) and “Meet Antipater” (2:39).

Across these, we hear from Affirm Films head Rich Peluso, music supervisor Alex Anders, director/writer/composer Adam Anders, composer Nikki Anders, and actors Fiona Palomo, Milo Manheim, Stephanie Gil, Moriah and Joel Smallbone.

We get minor notes about cast and characters as well as some aspects of the movie. Expect a lot of promotional fluff and little more.

The Heart of Journey to Bethlehem goes for four minutes, 33 seconds. It brings notes from Smallbone, Alex Anders, Nikki Anders, Manheim, Adam Anders, Peluso, Moriah, producers Ryan Busse and Alan Powell, and actors Lecrae, Antonio Banderas, Rizwan Manji, Geno Segers and Omid Djalili.

“Heart” talks about the film’s music, cast and characters. Unsurprisingly, we locate another puff piece without substance.

Three Deleted & Extended Scenes occupy a total of five minutes, 46 seconds. We get “A Great Navigator” (1:44), “Travel Montage” (2:09) and “Joseph’s Catapult” (1:53).

“Navigator” expands our intro to the Magi, while “Montage” shows more of the long journey taken by Mary and Joseph and “Catapult” displays an attempt by Joseph to keep the couple from detection.

“Catapult” offers some mildly amusing material. The other two seem superfluous.

The disc opens with ads for The Star, Overcomer, and Moonrise. No trailer for Journey appears here.

Perhaps my intensely low expectations influenced my final opinion, but Journey to Bethlehem offers a mildly pleasant surprise. While it comes with more than a few cinematic issues, it nonetheless delivers a semi-charming take on an oft-told tale. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and positive audio as well as a mix of bonus materials. I can’t call this a great movie but it brings a generally likable take on the nativity story.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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