'Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas' film review: Will make you hate Christmas
Make no mistake, "Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas" is not a movie. Yes, there's the semblance of a plot, some one-dimensional characters and even something thing that seems like conflict, but this is not a story - this is a sermon disguised as a movie.
In short: Christian (played by director Darren Doane) is troubled by the modern-day version of Christmas, which he decries as materialistic and pagan in nature. His brother-in-law Kirk (Kirk Cameron) tries to convince him of Christmas' roots remain Christian.
First and foremost, this review makes no claim on the validity on the messages or themes presented in "Saving Christmas." And even if one assumes every single word, claim and statement spoken by Cameron is true in every sense of the word - factually, historically, philosophically and theologically - "Saving Christmas" is still shockingly terrible and insulting.
The very first Cameron voice-over monologue (mere minutes into the movie) ends with "And how we enter this story matters." Using that logic, how the audience enters "Saving Christmas" informs the audience just what type of movie this is going to be: a festive, sweater-clad Cameron sipping cocoa in front of a fireplace and Christmas tree -- and he just sanctimoniously tells the audience how other people feel about Christmas. Kirk is quickly established not as a character, but immediately setup as the voice of reason.
This all sets up what is essentially a nearly 90 minute "debate" between Kirk Cameron and a straw man about the origins of Christmas. The brother-in-law regurgitates some argument why Christmas has lost its way, to which Kirk smugly counters. This goes back-and-forth a few times (with Kirk's side always getting a cinematic treatment, wherein some biblical event is re-enacted and narrated by Cameron). Kirk wins every round. If this were a boxing match, Kirk would be Muhammad Ali and the brother-in-law would just be some glass-jawed bum brought in off the street.
But to call the exchange between Kirk and this brother-in-law a "debate" is disingenuous and insulting. It's barely an exchange. Christian just airs his grievances - and Kirk just drops “truth bombs” on Christian. The entire film is predicated on Kirk dropping knowledge on Christian about the true meaning of Christmas. But this film never attempts to pit two evenly balanced ideas against each other. Christian's concerns about Christmas are immediately brushed off as "all wrong." But when it comes time for Kirk to make his arguments, his long-winded counterarguments are vivid re-enactments, complete with an epic voice-over and a dramatic score.
It is categorically impossible to create any sort of tension when the audience has been told, from the very beginning, that the brother-in-law is across-the-board wrong. And remember, the film's first move was to establish Kirk as the voice of reason. Kirk's claims are never questioned or refuted. Christian blindly accepts Kirk's arguments, rolls over and just moves on this next issue with Christmas.
The ideas within "Saving Christmas" would have been better packaged in a documentary (or something resembling a documentary). Trying to frame this "point/counterpoint" argument between Kirk and his troubled brother-in-law comes off as pompous. And again, this film isn't interested in a balanced discussion - this is Kirk giving a sermon to his brother-in-law. Neither Kirk nor Christian are characters - they are simply avatars talking at each other, with this film unabashedly favoring Kirk over his cynical brother-in-law. This isn't a "doubter versus a believer" or even "right versus wrong" - this is "the obviously right guy tells the wrong guy his beliefs are blind and ignorant and obtuse." Kirk is utterly unchallenged by a scoffing, ignorant fool.
"Subtle" is will never be used to describe "Saving Christmas." Every "character" is arch. And in its penultimate moments, Kirk literally puts his hand on Christian's shoulder and tells him to "see Christmas through new eyes."
If the movie ended right when Kirk has delivered his last unquestioned talking point, then the movie would still be unquestionably bad. The stakes are virtually non-existent. Christian is the only person at the Christmas party mopping around - if he had stayed troubled by Christmas, the party wouldn't have noticed at all. And even with its low stakes and simple structure, the story doesn't matter because the characters are vaguely-defined caricatures and the "plot" is just Kirk explaining to Christian just how stupid he is. And yet, even this film finds new, disturbing and surprising ways to find bold new depths of unwatchable.
The movie ends with a hip-hop dance sequence. And no, there's nothing leading up to this bizarre and cringy conclusion - Christian (or any other character for that matter) never hints at a secret love hip hop or an acumen for choreography. And the sequence just goes on and on and on for entirely too long. And these are very average people pop-locking and break dancing in a foyer. There's nothing intrinsically charming or funny or entertaining on any level about this odd conclusion.
The fact that a supposed discussion about the significance and relevancy of Jesus Christ in modern Christmas rituals just abruptly ends with a crazy dance number and a ham-handed monologue pretty much typifies this misguided disaster.
Final verdict: One-dimension characters. Thin “plot.” Non-existent stakes. "Saving Christmas" is simply one of the worst films ever made.
"Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas" is mercifully just 79 minutes. This 2014 film is rated PG for some thematic elements.