“You can’t understand someone until you’ve seen the world through their eyes,” Kirk Cameron tells us during Saving Christmas‘s mawkish opening narration. If nothing else, this film offers a fascinating glimpse into the intractable, sanctimonious way Cameron must view everything and everyone around him. His omnipresent voiceover brims with the serene, cheerful lunacy of a man ushering wide-eyed followers toward the Kool-Aid vats. Saving Christmas, Cameron’s moldering mound of reindeer shit, somehow manages to mangle the teachings of Jesus, botch the spirit of Christmas, and arrogantly flaunt any cinematic conventions that could make any of this entertaining or enriching to anyone. This is rightfully celebrated as one of the worst movies ever made, but for reasons that distinguish it from the rest of the stinking, fly-swarmed pile.
The entirety of the “plot” takes place in and around an opulent, multi-million dollar mansion. Kirk Cameron and his clan of bloodless, suburban automatons have assembled for a massive Christmas shindig. (The party is hosted by his sister, and lemme tell you: She doesn’t have a “Can I Speak to the Manager” Haircut. She has a “Can I Speak to the Manager’s Regional Manager in De Moines, Iowa I Don’t Care if He’s Asleep Call and Wake Him Up” Haircut.) There’s only one fly in the egg nog: Cameron’s obnoxious, dip-shit brother-in-law has a little case of the First World grumpies. He spends the party moping in his Escalade–not because there are millions of children who will spend Christmas starving to death, or dying of a curable disease–no, no, no. He’s pissed because his kids are excited about Santa Claus coming to town, and if you rearrange the letters of Santa you get….you guessed it: SATAN. That’s right, party people–this numbnuts is locked in his car because he thinks fucking Santa Claus is the devil reincarnated on earth. And all those other Christmas conventions? Pagan idolatry. Thankfully, he has Kirk Cameron to plop in the passenger seat and preach and preach and PREACH until I wanted to put my head and shoulders straight through drywall.
I’m a sucker for Christmas movies, and I’m fine admitting that. The unbridled optimism, the sense of rebirth, they touch a hidden sentimentality within me. You really have to try and screw up a Christmas movie, and few have done that as well as this one. “Christmas is a material celebration of God on Earth,” he says during the film’s psychotic conclusion. “It’s okay to embrace the materialistic.” That’s the message he wants the viewer to take away from this crap? That not only is the rampant commercialism of Christmas not wrong–it’s actually the Christian thing to do?!? This is a Christmas movie that will make you want to convert to another religion.
Saving Christmas is a terrible film, as bad as anything Hollywood has ever produced. Yet, it somehow stands apart on any list of the worst: It’s not poorly made or edited, and the acting’s not…terrible. No–it’s awful because of an underlying ugliness, a xenophobia that bubbles up throughout the film. The story’s thesis patronizingly dismisses the fact that the people who don’t want to be bludgeoned with gifts and carols at Christmas have every right to feel that way. No, we’re told. They’re wrong. And if you agree with them, you’re wrong, too. Cameron’s persona is a passively aggressive zealot, blissfully unaware of how annoying and ineffectual this unsubtle love-it-or-leave-it schtick really is. Ironically, Saving Christmas could be a great teaching tool for kids: This is everything that Christmas is not about.