Samuel Goldwyn Films
Rated PG for some thematic elements.
Running time: 80 minutes.
Zero stars out of four.
Let’s just set aside the ideology for a second. We’ll get to that, I promise.
Purely from a technical perspective — from a perspective of sheer craft — “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” is hilarious in its ineptitude. It feels simultaneously slapped together and padded. It is “The Room” of Christmas movies. Actually, “The Room” is more enjoyable. But you get the idea.
Even with a climactic, overlong dance sequence to a hip-hop version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” (and I wish I were making that up), “Saving Christmas” feels desperately stretched to reach a respectable running time. It is barely 80 minutes long. It feels much, much longer.
Didactic dialogue, stiff performances, flat jokes, baffling camera angles, inexplicable editing choices and lighting and sound values that are below those of a high school AV club project — these are the hallmarks of this laughably cheesy production aimed at Christian audiences. Between this, “Moms’ Night Out” and “Persecuted” this year alone, I remain baffled as to why these films tend to look so shoddy.
As you might be able to surmise from the title, Cameron — the “Growing Pains” child actor of the 1980s turned evangelist — serves as executive producer and star. Darren Doane is the director, co-writer and co-star. Large chunks of the film consist of the two men sitting in the front seat of a minivan outside a house where Doane’s character — the conveniently named Christian — is seething while a gaudy Christmas party rages inside. And by “rages,” I mean it features kids running around, a dude dressed in a Santa Claus costume, a stereotypically sassy black friend and plenty of extras looking straight into the camera.
Cameron’s character, whose name just happens to be Kirk, has walked outside to find out what’s troubling Christian, who’s married to his sister (Bridgette Ridenour, who is often shot standing behind the island in the kitchen, partially obscured by poinsettias). Kirk is helpful enough to narrate the fact that he’s walking outside to see what’s troubling Christian; then again, he narrates everything that’s going on and repeatedly spells out everything we’re supposed to be thinking and feeling.
Seems Christian is irked by the materialistic orgy the holiday has become. He can’t find any references to Santa Claus or Christmas trees in the Bible. These are pagan traditions. The reason for the season has been eviscerated (my word, not his). He wants to put the Christ back in Christmas.
Without missing a beat, Kirk goes back through the Bible and cherry picks details and passages that validate modern-day Christmas iconography. Never mind that these arguments don’t jibe with either religious or historical teachings. Kirk is flipping the script in totally selective ways to suit his purposes and those of the film. Each of these examples comes illustrated with a fantasy sequence that looks as if it was shot in someone’s backyard. And at the end of each one, Christian says something along the lines of, “You know what? You’re right. I never thought of it that way.” Case closed.
Basically, the moral of the story is that we should embrace the excess of Christmas — the presents and the feasts and the lavish parties — because it’s the manifestation of God’s love in material form. In one of Kirk’s many lengthy voiceovers, he insists that we should buy the biggest ham and cook with the richest butter when we sit down with family and friends to enjoy our Christmas dinner. On second thought, this is the only part of the film that actually makes any sense.
Anyway, this movie might be a lot of fun if you watched it with a group of friends over beers. Cameron mentions hot cocoa so many times throughout the course of the film’s 80 minutes, it could be a drinking game. I attended a matinee with five other people at a depressing theater in Burbank, the only place in Los Angeles showing “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.” Trudging out afterward, I did not sense that any of us were newly filled with the holy spirit.