Netflixable? “Holy Expectations” or “Embarazada por obra y Gracia” sets the Nativity in modern Colombia

Here’s one that should have come off, but doesn’t.

“Holy Expectations” or “Embarazada por obra y gracia” is a faith-based musical farce from Colombia that comically re-imagines the Nativity story in modern day Colombia.

It’s got sherbet-colored houses and Panama hats, hapless “wise men” and a Herod as a Bond villain. The script uses a “Wizard of Oz” structure, a sickly child (Isabella Sierra) is told the story of the birth of baby Jesus, imagining her doctor (Adriana Botina) as Mary, her pastor (Fernando Ramos) as Joseph, a soap opera star (José Manuel Ospina) as a playful, magical archangel Gabriel and three goofball orderlies as the “Three Kings” sent in search of the barn — because there’s no room at the clinic — where Christ is to be born.

Shepherds, as singing cowboys, serenade the family. But everybody sings, especially Gabriel — “In her belly, sitting tightly, is the son of the Almighty!” (in Spanish, with English subtitles).

But from the opening framing devise, little Gabriella dragging widowed dad (Joavany Alvarez) to church so she can perform with the “praise (singing) group,” fainting and then hospitalized, “Holy Expectations” dashes expectations.

Dad tells her the story, pre-surgery in the hospital, embellishing it with Colombian touches — the style of music, Joseph driving Mary in an aged Jeep to Belén, the disreputable and quarrelsome “kings” (Omar Murillo, Christian López, Nelson Purillo) bickering and mugging and piling into orange VW Beetle — foiled at every turn, because Herodine (Aida Morales) wants them to kill the baby before it can start trouble.

The songs are cute, but the performances — heavy on the jamón — cannot make the many light touches actually funny. Mary and Joseph come off well, but the kings don’t dive deep enough into slapstick to ever live up to their promise.

The only moments I laughed were when the shepherds showed up.


MPAA Rating: TV-PG

Cast:  Adriana Botina, Fernando Ramos, Isabella Sierra, Joavany Alvarez, Omar Murillo, Christian López, Nelson Purillo, Aida Morales and José Manuel Ospina

Credits: Directed by  Fernando Ayllón, script by  Fernando AyllónÁngel Ayllón. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:29

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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