Kirk Cameron, the erstwhile child star turned evangelical poster boy/man, adopts the guise of Uncle Kirk at the start of the film Saving Christmas. The actor snuggles into a comfy chair next to a blazing fireplace and proceeds to wax lyrical about his love for the holiday. He gazes into the camera and right into the living rooms of his audience, who presumably are also snuggled into comfy chairs next to their own fireplaces. Things get dark real fast though; after opining on his winter beard, Uncle Kirk warns of the threat to Christmas. But rather than directing his condescension to the godless heathens who would tear down your inflatable nativity and stuff it into an underground bunker in Area 52 – oh, it’s true, he gears up for a lecture to his fellow Christians who would strip Christmas of snow globes, hot chocolate, and tinsel.
Cameron proceeds to give a symbolic dressing down to his onscreen brother-in-law (writer-director-producer Darren Doane), aptly named Christian, when the latter slumps off to his car in the midst of his wife’s eggnog and fudge-fueled Christmas fete. He is upset that the real reason for the season is being buried beneath a pile of forgotten toys and cheap decorations, even imploring us to think about the number of wells that could be built, presumably for poor children in Africa.
The result is not so much a plot-driven story of revelation and reconciliation as it is a series of lectures by Cameron on the holy union between baubles and baby Jesus. Christian is particularly incensed about Santa, Christmas trees, presents, and the actual date of Jesus’ birth, but thankfully Cameron rebuts with his snide grad student manner and explains that all these things have their origins in Christian tradition. Among his more creative deductive acrobatics are that Christmas trees are just unused crosses and that your glittering pile of gifts represents the Bethlehem skyline. He also reasons, if you want to call it that, that whether or not Christians coopted the pagan celebration of winter solstice, well, God made winter solstice, so…
It’s unclear and ultimately immaterial whether Cameron is playing himself or some version of. Those inclined towards his brand of faith-based entertainment may welcome this forceful endorsement of favorite holiday traditions, but if we’re going to use actual film criteria as a judge, then Saving Christmas barely qualifies as a movie. Its general lack of plot and character development along with its deceptive marketing as a holiday comedy make the whole project feel like a scam, or a Sunday sermon chastising the faithful for the unbelief. Neither are good reasons to watch, nor is the presence of a very token black friend named D’Andre who wants to preserve crazy shirt Fridays and does spoken word rants on the war on Christmas. If you’re still not convinced, ask yourself if you really want to watch something that mentions “elf worship.”
Prod: Darren Doane, Raphi Henly, Amanda Rosser, David Shannon
Dir: Darren Doane
Writer: Darren Doane, Cheston Hervey
Cast: Kirk Cameron, Darren Doane, Bridgette Ridenour
Time: 79 min
Country: United States