Los Tres Reyes Magos
This movie is decent as long as it’s focusing on the titular three kings. The kings are nice. There are no 3-dimensional personalities or anything, but their personalities are at least defined, and their screen time is entertaining to watch. Too often, however, the movie gets sidetracked into distracting subplots, such as a number of scenes featuring King Herod that really don’t go anywhere or contribute anything to the plot. The scenes with Mary and Joseph also fall flat because Mary has all the personality of cardboard. And there are too many still-drawing-based musical interludes of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay and being rejected by the scowling local townspeople. These get tedious really fast. The movie should have kept the focus on the three kings and the main antagonist, the Devil (who goes by the name Olbaid, Diablo spelled backwards.)
The way this movie tries to blend the worlds of Mexico and the Middle East is frustrating. In one of the aforementioned musical interludes, one of the townspeople who rejects Mary and Joseph is a fat hombré who holds a big cigar in his fat fingers; a distracting reminder that we’re not precisely in Israel as well as an annoying anachronism. Then there are Melchior’s travels through the desert mountains, in which he encounters both a cactus and a rattlesnake (which tries to constrict, rather than bite and poison, Melchior’s horse,) neither of which can be found in the Sahara. These things might not be so bad if the film used the names of places in Mexico, but it constantly specifies place names like Bethlehem and Nazareth. Plus the homelands of the three kings (one of whom lives in Africa) are on completely different continents from Mexico. There could have been a balance between the cosmetic features of Mexican folk art and the world of the Middle East, but this movie failed to strike it.
There’s also the matter of the comedy. Somebody failed to tell the filmmakers that they aren’t any good at comedy, so the movie wastes time on “funny” characters like the the Devil’s impish general Murcio, who always bungles his assignments; or King Herod, who loses his temper and falls down a lot, and frequently hurts his butt; or Herod’s three wise magicians, who bungle their spells and engage in other unfunny slapstick. And these characters waste further time with songs we didn’t need. Yes, this movie is a musical, mostly because of these comic relief characters. The songs are annoying and should have been cut.
Lastly, the animation. This film has some great character designs, such as Olbaid with his distinctly Mexican facepaint, and a few beautifully animated frames. But in motion, it falls to the limitations of low budget animation; a general lack of good lip syncing, unconvincing movement, etc. Every now and again, there’s a nice stretch of animation. In particular, there are some nice action sequences featuring the three kings. But the bad parts weigh things down. The aforementioned comedy characters, for example, are animated about a step below Mr. Magoo.
I’ll give the movie 2 1/5 stars, rounded up here to 3 to be generous. The animation is sometimes nice to look at, and there are some fun bits, but the movie loses a lot of points for some cardboard characters, distracting subplots, unfunny comedy, tedious musical numbers, and the poorer aspects of the animation.