Saving Christmas reminds me of an old Dolly Parton quote: “Honey, it costs a lotta money to look this cheap!” Likewise, it must’ve been difficult for the people who made this movie to be so completely wrong about so many things at once. The teachings of Jesus, the spirit of Christmas, and the conventions of decent filmmaking all get manhandled for 80 excruciating minutes. At the same time, Saving Christmas is strangely fascinating as a cultural artifact–a durable portfolio of the dumbest ideas our society has to offer. I’ve seen it twice now, and the second swirl and sniff really opens the bouquet of just how pungent this monsterpiece really is.
The movie opens on Kirk Cameron, who–unfortunately–plays Kirk Cameron. He sips hot cocoa and narrates directly into the camera. Cameron speaks with the detached, cheerful lunacy of a man who could someday herd his crazed followers toward the Kool Aid vats. Turns out, Ol’ Kirk loves Christmas like a glutton loves his lunch. In fact, he blathers so awkwardly about it that if this were a real Christmas party, you’d probably spend the conversation quietly backing away from him.
Despite his dimwitted serenity, things aren’t going real swell in the Cameron McMansion. Christian, Kirk’s numbnuts brother-in-law, has come down with a real case of the First World Grumpies. As the Cameron Christmas party rages in all its vanilla blandness, Christian heads out to the Escalade to pout for a while. Why is he so frowny-faced, you ask? Well, Christian thinks that Christ has been subtracted from Christmas. People say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” (Side note: If your faith can’t handle somebody saying “Happy Holidays,” then your faith is weak.) Worst of all: If you rearrange the letters in Santa you get….*gasp* SATAN. That’s right, gang. This doofus thinks that Santa is actually Lucifer in starlight. If stupidity were a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, this is the moment where the movie goes all-in.
Thankfully for Christian, we’ve got Cameron to sidle into the passenger seat of this luxury SUV and unload a mawkish sermon on both him and we captive viewers. You see, Santa Claus actually embodies the true meaning of Christmas. That goes ditto for all the tacky decor Cameron has slapped on the walls of his expensive suburban shithole. All this pedantic gibbering gets adorned with half-assed cutaways that help underline the idiocy of what we’re hearing. Hey kids, did ya know that the real Santa Claus was a grubby psychopath who clubbed people to death if they didn’t believe the way he did? Or that Christmas trees represent Christ at the Crucifixion? Yay!
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!
Appropriately, the film saves its worst message for last. With a straight face, Cameron informs Christian that rampant materialism is really Christ’s will at work. “It’s right that our holiday is marked with material things,” he says with a vacant grin. Forget about all the families who don’t have food to eat or books to read. Spend that hard-earned money on you and yours. According to Cameron, you can put the Christ back in Christmas, and earn cash-back rewards for every dollar spent, all at the mall of your choice. What’s in your wallet?™
Saving Christmas has earned its place on the Mt. Rushmore of bad movies. At the same time, it stands apart from the works of Ed Wood or a big-budget disaster like Gigli. Cameron’s magnum opus isn’t rickety from a technical standpoint, and the acting isn’t………terrible, I guess. (It ain’t great, either.) It’s this movie’s poisoned heart and soul that make it so awesomely bad. Cameron spouts an ugly, offensive worldview: If you don’t wish to be bludgeoned with crass commercialism during Christmas, you’re wrong. If you don’t believe in Christmas at all, you’re wrong. If you have any tolerance for anybody who thinks either way, you’re wrong too. More than anything, Saving Christmas is a fascinating travelogue of one man’s journey deep into the spiritual weeds. It takes a lot of effort to make a movie this horrible.
80 min. PG.
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