Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (dir. Darren Doane)

Posted: November 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

“Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” barely qualifies as a feature film.  The running time is 80 minutes, already ten minutes shy of the perceived minimum for  a full length film (though many run a scant 88 minutes or less on occasion), and in that running time we get the following:

  • A 3+ minute opening monologue as Kirk Cameron sits by a Christmas tree and a fire, drinking hot chocolate
  • A possibly 5+ minute breakdancing routine in slow motion. Yes, dear reader, in this film you will see KIRK CAMERON DOING THE WORM IN SLOW-MOTION WHILE HIS MOUTH IS OPEN IN A BIG “O”!!!
  • A 3+ minute post-credits beatboxing freestyle starring two annoying minor characters.
  • A 3+ minute closing credit sequence with unfunny outtakes

Take away that conservative estimate of 14 minutes, and what we have is a feature that runs 66 minutes.  At this point you may be asking if that is enough time to tell a story.  Perhaps this “film” should have been a straight-to-dvd documentary or inspirational film and not released in movie theaters nationwide where people would pay upwards of $10.00 for a ticket to a film that looks like it was shot in a weekend at Kirk Cameron’s house as a home movie.  Well, whatever the case may be, the unaccredited religious college Liberty University, which teaches Creationism of the Young-Earth persuasion and still has the gall to call itself an institute of higher learning, decided this was a film to be released in theaters for paying customers, and if some Christians can drink enough Kool-Aid to find the film entertaining in a non-ironic way, I seriously worry for the future of the human race.

So what is this film about?  Going in to it, I assumed it would be an attack on the secularization of Christmas and the Christian perception of some “War on Christmas”, much like the cheesy Christian film “Last Ounce of Courage” was.  You may remember that film as being the first movie to ever receive the, let’s say “coveted”, Chuck Norris Seal of Approval.  That film was largely concerned with Christians being upset that some people want religious symbols, like the Nativity, removed from taxpayer funded public grounds.  You know, that pesky First Amendment keeping them from making Christianity the official religion of the United States really boils their blood.  Kirk Cameron, however, doesn’t seem as bothered with atheists in this regard.  The target of his “film”, instead, are Christians who have lost their love of Christmas, as they don’t see how it resembles a celebration of Jesus anymore.

As the plot-proper takes hold, we’re at a holiday party being held at Cameron’s sister’s house.  Cameron seems to be playing himself, even if his wife is nowhere to be seen (though Kirk makes sure to have his wedding ring displayed front and center in numerous frames).  Cameron’s sister in the film is played by his real life sister, Bridgette Ridenour, but his brother-in-law, the other main character in this thing, is played by the film’s director, Darren Doane.  Doane directed Cameron’s last film, “Unstoppable” (unseen by me), but is otherwise known as a music video director for decidedly non-Christian bands.  I’m not sure if he’s a recent convert, has always been a devout Christian, or is merely taking these jobs so he can call himself a feature director, but “Saving Christmas” contains nothing that would lead me to understand why he’s gotten so much music video work.

We get unnecessary hand-held shakiness during a normal Christmas party scene.  We have shots so close to the actors’ faces that I wondered if I was watching “Les Miserables” again.  There is an overuse of slow motion, bad flash animation, and other techniques that a child who just downloaded Final Cut Pro would use to edit his school project.  Some shots are so awkwardly set up that they could be mistaken for a horror movie or the pre-sex scenes in porn.  Christian films are known for their poor direction, from all of the “Left Behind” films to the aforementioned “Last Ounce of Courage”, to “God’s Not Dead” and “Fireproof”, the latter two of which are the best-directed of these all around poorly made films.  Even among this motley crew, “Saving Christmas” is amateur hour.

The majority of this film takes place in two sets: Inside the house during the holiday party, and inside a truck parked in a driveway as Cameron and his brother-in-law (who is named “Christian”, because the character who is a stand in for Christians who have lost their love of Christmas can’t have a name TOO on the nose, right?) discuss Christmas.  This film’s budget may have been less than the cost to fill up my tank last week.  There is an echo and ambient sound to the indoor scenes, as if they decided to forgo the use of boom mics and just recorded from the mics attached to the camera.  The film’s idea of lighting is either using source lighting from the house, or throwing a huge spotlight behind people to cast them in a creepy halo.  All around, this is a shabby-looking piece of work.  I’ve seen teenagers’ Youtube shorts that look more professional than this film.

Anyway, Christian is sitting in his house during the party as Cameron manically passes cups of hot chocolate out to the kids (many of whom look directly at the camera), his eyes bulging out from his skull and veins jutting out from his forehead and neck.  Kirk Cameron has become one scary-looking dude as he’s gotten older.  Christian finds himself staring at a little blonde girl dancing around, whom the film shows us in slow motion, adding a layer of creepiness that I don’t think the filmmakers were intending.  After all, the point of the scene is supposed to be Christian’s disgust with the kid’s bratty glee and hyper activity, not that Christian is a pedophile who is trying to contain his lust for young flesh, but that is largely how it comes across.  His gazing is interrupted by a stereotypical black man (the name of this actor is, at the moment, un-google-able) who waves his hands, talks fast, and pretty much shucks and jives his way through a borderline racist Chris Tucker-lite performance.  This man later has  a conversation with another partygoer (Raphi Henley) which seems to be a parody of conspiracy theories and even the War on Christmas, spoken behind coffee mugs (possibly so the dialogue could be written later or changed in post via ADR), and this scene wastes even more precious little screen time.

Discouraged, Christian decides to sit in his car away from the party. Kirk Cameron notices this and stalks him out to his car. I should mention here that this movie has an incessant amount of voice-over from Cameron.  Apparently “show, don’t tell” is not something the screenwriters were ever told.  It also seems that Cameron didn’t write this, or least isn’t a credited writer.  Director Doane and Cheston Hervey are the credited writers, even though Cameron’s name is above the title (at least in the closing credits, it’s not in the opening credits) and he gets an opening monologue. So, Cameron voice-overs his way into Christian’s car, Christian spends a long time repeating himself as he explains what he doesn’t like about Christmas, and then Cameron tells him he is all wrong.  At one point, Christian talks about seeing a mother and her bratty kid outside a store Christmas shopping, and you half-expect him to say he mowed them down with his car as he drove by.  I know the film tries to play Christian’s exasperation as funny, but he just comes across as a guy who is on the verge of shooting a bunch of people.  It is rather odd that the director cast himself in this unflattering role.

Of all the concerns Christian brings up, Cameron really only addresses three of them.  As Cameron addresses them, the film cuts away to poorly staged reenactments of the events he speaks of, or sometimes just random shots of backlit crucifixes and Styrofoam blocks poorly painted to resemble rocks in a cave.  Yes, the film goes into pseudo-documentary Dinesh D’Souza territory.  Going in to the film, I thought this was going to be some sort of Christian (the religion, not the character) spin on “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, a comedy wherein an anti-Christmas person was won over by the joy and magic of Jesus-infused Christmas.  But no.  Instead, the film is largely voiceovers of Kirk Cameron as he tries to shove secular Christmas traditions, or at least ones not rooted in Christianity, and twist those square pegs to fit in to the round hole of religion.

Okay, the first thing isn’t really secular.  Christian complains about a Nativity snowglobe, and how it doesn’t get as much attention as other decorations.  Cameron then does into a spiel about how it’s amazing Jesus was born because King Herod was going around killing all the babies, as the prophecy foretold (yup, nothing weird about that), and that no one expected Baby Jesus to survive.  That’s why the wise men were bringing burial offerings (like myrrh) to the baby.  Cameron then spends way too much time fetishizing Baby Jesus’ swaddling cloth.  Like, way too much.  I’ve never heard the phrase “swaddling cloth” as much in my entire life before seeing this “film”.  Surprisingly, Cameron pretty much concedes that Jesus was not born in December during this explanation.  Not surprisingly, Cameron doesn’t concede that Jesus was a fictional character, but I suppose baby steps are in order.  Later in the film, Christian moves his nutcracker closer to the Nativity snowglobe to represent Herod’s soldiers. BOOM!  A secular decoration suddenly becomes Christian. BOO-YA, BITCHES!!!

Next, Cameron addresses Christmas trees.  Despite numerous historical sources which show that Christmas trees are derived from a number of different Pagan religions celebrating the winter solstice (Saturnalia among them), or that Christianity’s absorption of Pagan traditions helped to convert and keep different peoples in the fold and contribute to the religion’s staying power, Cameron rejects any Pagan influence in the Christmas tree whatsoever.  Instead, Cameron does some DaVinci Code-esque stretching to claim that the Christmas tree is both a symbol of the Tree of Life from Genesis, and a representation of every tree that will no longer become a wooden cross because Jesus was Crucified, and thus no one else needs to be, so that tree was saved from becoming a cross.  Because being chopped down to slowly die in your living room while planted in a water bowl is so much more dignifying to the tree?  Also, the Roman Empire crucified people until at least 337 CE, approximately three centuries after Jesus was presumed to have lived and died, so I’m not sure why Cameron thinks Jesus’ crucifixion stopped that method of execution.  Cameron also wants us to see the tree as representing Christ himself, glowing with light and filled with fruit to sustain us (Cameron’s really big on decorating Christmas trees with fruit).  Seriously, Kirk, pick a symbol and stick with it.  Trees can’t represent everything EXCEPT their historical Pagan routes, no matter how backward you bend yourself.

Lastly, we get a defense of Santa Clause.  While Santa being at least partially derived from the historical Saint Nicholas isn’t disputed, the film’s portrayal of him may raise some eyebrows.  Looking like a cross between Gandalf the Grey and Rob Zombie, Nicholas is portrayed as man so incensed that a man would dare claim that Jesus and God are not one in the same, that he BEATS THE EVER-LIVING SHIT OUT OF THAT MAN WITH HIS STAFF.  Cameron calls Nicholas (I’m paraphrasing) Christ’s greatest defender and champion.  In the film, he looks like a crazy man who becomes violent over blasphemy. Santa as jihadist for Jesus.

I’m not sure why Cameron feels threatened if not every single symbol and piece of Christmas iconography is not as least somewhat tied to his religion, but he clearly is. The biggest stretch, and I mean one DOOZY, is told to us in voice-over during an opulent dinner montage.  Cameron says that it is okay that Christmas has become about material things like ham dinners, “your richest butter” (direct quote),  and expensive presents, because Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, and thus THE DAY THAT GOD HIMSELF BECAME MATERIAL!  Yes, because God became flesh, it is your right and your duty to buy lots of expensive presents for you and yours.  The film does tell us not to max out our credit cards or go into debt, though.  However, It fails to tell us not to bitchslap non-believers.

Christian is somehow convinced, at the end of all this, that Christmas is about Jesus after all.  He rejoins the party, and in a very porno-ish scene, walks up to his wife.  He asks her if she knows what he wants to do.  Her reply is something along the lines of “what did you have in mind”, but it ends with her addressing Christian as “Big Poppa”.  I’m not kidding.  The film then freezes and Cameron tells us that we’re expecting them to kiss.  No, I was expecting a hardcore anal scene from the poorly staged mise en scene and a woman addressing a man as “Big Poppa”, but whatever.  We get the breakdancing scene and, I cannot stress this enough, KIRK CAMERON DOING THE WORM IN SLOW MOTION WITH HIS MOUTH OPEN IN A GIANT “O”!!!!  My father, why have you forsaken me?

“Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” is an amateurishly made, poorly paced “film”, packed with unnecessary filler, which makes a few out-there stretches of logic in an attempt to convince Christians that it is okay to celebrate all the flashy gaudiness of Christmas because, hey, it can all be twisted to reach right back to Jesus.  It ranges from boring to unintentionally hilarious, and isn’t so much intellectually offensive as it is exceedingly crappy to the point of harmlessness.  Its greatest sin is daring to expect people to pay money for an hour of people talking in a car combined with beatboxing and breakdancing, and finding out that the combination of hot chocolate and Baby Jesus’ swaddling cloth would likely make Kirk Cameron jizz in his pants. D-

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