It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
holiday season sees a new influx of Christmas movies desperate to become the
next big seasonal perennial destined to provide laughter, tears, humanity and
healthy residuals for years to come. A majority of these films tend to
feature characters who despair that the true meaning of the season has been
lost, replaced with people more concerned with having the tallest tree, the
biggest ham, the largest party and the most gifts. "Saving Christmas"
falls along these lines, but I must say that it may be the first one, at
least that I can recall, where that particular character is considered to be
the bad guy who wants to spoil things for everyone else.
The full title of the film is "Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas," and, yes, the former teen idol turned conservative Christian evangelist/entertainer is front and center here playing himself. Set during a lavish Christmas party being thrown by his sister (Bridgette Ridenour), Kirk is rocked to his core when he asks about how brother-in-law Christian (Darren Doane, who also directed and co-wrote the film) is doing and Sis tells him that Christian just isn't really in the Christmas mood this year. This cannot stand, and when Kirk finally finds Christian, he is sitting out in his driveway so as not to ruin the party with his mood. He confesses to Kirk that he thinks that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost and that even the party going on in his own house is a symbol of how things have gotten so out of whack. "That money spent—how many kids could we have fed? How many wells could we have dug?"
You might think that most right-thinking people, even those who wholeheartedly embrace the season, would have little reason to argue with such sentiment, especially when delivered by someone who is taking pains to keep it to himself so as not to spoil the mood. Well, Kirk has something to say about that and it boils down to "You're all wrong—you drank the Kool-Aid." To his eyes, every gaudy symbol of the season that is putting Christian off has deep-seated religious roots, and only by venerating them in the most ostentatious manner imaginable can one be truly close to God. Take Christmas trees and Santa Claus, for example—even though such things are never mentioned in the Bible, Kirk uses cherry-picked Biblical details, a certain degree of extrapolation and no small amount of smugness ("Last I checked, God made the Winter Solstice") to prove his points with such stunning finality that Christian instantly realizes that he has been the jerk all along for "terrorizing" his family by not realizing, for example, that the giant stack of presents under the tree can suggest the skyline of the new Jerusalem.
For a good chunk of the running time, I was more flat-out baffled by "Saving Christmas" than anything else. Based on the poster and some suggestion that I heard that it would be about the so-called "war on Christmas," I was expecting the film to be a comedy about someone trying to regain the meaning of the holiday in the wake of monsters who would have everyone say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays'" instead of "Merry Christmas." This might have resulted in an awful film—though perhaps no worse than most secular Christmas-themed films you or I could mention—but at least it would have been about something, and, in the right hands, it could have actually inspired some big laughs here and there. Instead, "Saving Christmas" is little more than a screed delivered by Kirk Cameron scorning everyone who doesn't celebrate the season as ostentatiously as he does, justifying his attitude with bits and pieces gleaned from the Bible, delivered in the most self-righteous manner imaginable. The result is perhaps the only Christmas movie I can think of, especially of the religious-themed variety, that seems to flat-out endorse materialism, greed and outright gluttony. (Towards the end, Kirk admonishes one and all to "get the biggest ham...the richest butter.")
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