Christmas with a Capital C (2010)
It would start with Brad Stine, a conservative Christian stand-up comedian doing a routine mocking people for saying "Happy Holidays." If you want to get the most out of this review, I recommend watching this before going on - it'll help offer some important context. If you can't make it through the whole thing, at least watch the first minute and a half:
Well, Stine's routine got the attention of a Christian rock band, Go Fish, who wrote a song about it. I'm embedding their music video.
And. Yes, you should really watch some of this, too. I know, I know... but this is important. This is going somewhere.
Ugh. Yeah, I'm pretty sure they were serious.
So, I guess that was popular in the Christian music scene, because a Christian production company decided to make a movie based on it. That song plays during the closing credits, and Stine has a supporting role where he delivers a rant based on his routine and the song (in a coffee shop, no less).
The premise is pretty straightforward: a good, Christian town with strong values has always had a religious display on public land. But now an atheist with an ax to grind moves in and files an injunction to stop them.
To film this, they hired Helmut Schleppi, a Dutch director. And that is where things get interesting. Because the movie he made is not remotely the movie you'd expect.
When I called Stine's speech in the film a "rant" I wasn't exaggerating, nor was it unintentional. The Christians in this movie are portrayed as good, honest people. But they are ultimately portrayed as being wrong in fighting to keep the display. Stine's character is being irrational - he apologizes for the outburst later in the movie.
The atheist does come off as a villain at times - he's comically intolerant of Christians and bizarrely open about this - but he's not ultimately bad. And at no point does the movie suggests there's anything wrong with atheism. At the end of the movie, he becomes part of the community and changes his mind about Christians, but there's no indication he changes his mind about Christianity.
The movie isn't really about him or what he's trying to accomplish: it's about how other characters react. This is still told from a religious perspective, but its conclusion is the absolute opposite of its source material. It outright admonishes the sentiment expressed in that song.
The movie treats the subject matter with maturity and consideration. It respects the importance between separation of church and state.
It's not perfect: there are some sequences that are a little painful, and the atheist feels like a caricature (albeit a sympathetic one: it was as if the filmmakers were trying to explore his philosophy without understanding it). There's a romantic subplot focusing on the main character's son that's pretty cheesy, and the ending is more than a little sappy.
This isn't quite something I can label "highly recommended," but it is a legitimately good film. Those of you with some interest on the subject should definitely check it out. It is far more nuanced than you'd expect.
Incidentally, There's a fantastic interview with the director of this thing here that at least starts to explain how this movie got made. It's definitely worth a read, but I feel like a lot more went on here behind the scenes. I'd love to know what Go Fish thought of the finished product: it didn't seem to think much of their song.