Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas (2014)

I've wanted to see this since its release, but that compulsion kept being thwarted by an even stronger compulsion to not give any money directly to the people who made it. There didn't seem to be any easy way to watch this - Netflix didn't even carry the DVD last I checked - so I mostly gave up.

However, Saving Christmas has now appeared on multiple streaming platforms, so I was finally able to watch it. As a public service to readers of this site, I will not be specifying which streaming services, in the hopes none of you have to endure what I just went through.

I went in expecting this to be a very bad movie, but I have to say I was mistaken. Despite everything you may have heard, Saving Christmas is not really a movie. It's closer to a documentary, but I don't think it really meets the criteria for that, either. Really, it's a piece of propaganda.

At any rate, the "movie" opens with Kirk Cameron sitting on what appears to be the set of an old-fashioned Christmas special. He addresses the audience directly, explaining that he loves Christmas and that others do not. He alludes to non-Christians in passing, but the real group he's interested in are those who boycott the holiday because it isn't Christian enough. In the War on Christmas, Cameron's firing on his own side.

I'm not going to embed a GIF of Ken Watanabe saying, "Let them fight," but rest assured, I'm thinking it.

After Cameron's finished talking to the camera, it cuts to what appears to be a Viking walking through snow while extremely dramatic music plays and Cameron provides a voice-over. This lasts a minute or so, then we cut to peppy music playing over animated credits about the birth of Christ. Then we jump to a Christmas party thrown by someone playing Kirk Cameron's sister. Cameron's voice-over picks back up where it left off - he's got some thoughts about the nature of "story," which is ironic, because this film literally doesn't contain anything that could reasonably be called a story.

Cameron's sister, we're told, loves throwing Christmas parties, but she's sad this year because her husband's being antisocial. Kirk Cameron follows said husband to his car, where he's hiding to avoid the festivities. Cameron climbs in the passenger seat and starts a conversation with his brother-in-law, who explains how exhausted he is by how little Christmas has to do with the birth of Christ, only for Kirk to laugh and tell him he's got it all wrong.

They begin talking about various elements of the holidays, and after about five minutes of this, I began to wonder how much of the film was going to be two men sitting in a parked car having an academic discussion about the holidays.

Spoiler: it's basically all of it. And, no, I am not joking.

These discussions, which are structured like philosophical dialogues minus any actual philosophy, are intercut with flashbacks to Jesus, Saint Nicholas, and a Christmas tree lot, all of which serve as props for Cameron's arguments.

The arguments are... they're bad. They are really, really bad, and they involve some forced metaphors, absurd readings of the Bible, ridiculously inaccurate history, and some extremely ironic conclusions. I'm not going to go through everything, but there are a few things I just can't leave alone.

First, there's a shockingly violent retelling of Nicholas's confrontation with Arius at the Council of Nicaea that fails to mention the encounter almost certainly never actually occurred. Also, it elevates a slap in the original story to Nicholas violently beating Arius. Incidentally, the Viking I mentioned earlier was pulled from this bit. The "Viking" was supposed to be Nicholas, here depicted wearing furs and wandering through a frozen land. All of this was done to sell the idea the original Santa Claus was some sort of warrior who kicked ass for the Lord.

In the off chance anyone needs a refresher, Saint Nicholas of Myra came from a coastal town in Turkey where the winters are warm. In addition, he was not, in fact, a Viking.

I'll also single out a bit towards the end when Cameron defends Christmas being set near the solstice. Part of his argument for this is that it's appropriate Christ's birth is celebrated near when the sun emerges to turn back the bleak midwinter.

The utter lack of irony here is staggering, since he's pushing back on the idea the timing is pagan in origin. This is in line with the entire film, which seems to equate forced symbolism with meaning. And... okay, there's something to be said for the fact that interpretation and meaning evolve over time, but that doesn't invalidate the fact these things have origins. If a Christian is repelled by the realization that, say, evergreen decorations at Christmas are a tradition predating Christianity, they're not wrong to consider that practice pagan in origin. So, really Cameron's brother-in-law has a point when--

Wait. Why am I defending right-wing nut-jobs from other right-wing nut-jobs? I take it back: if Cameron wants to scream at conservative Christians with slightly different interpretations of the Bible than him, that's fine by me. Likewise, if he wants to offer a convoluted, absurd argument defending consumerism as symbolic of God taking on physical form... hey, it's his religion he's insulting - I've got no reindeer in this race.

But no one else should have to sit through this weird vanity project that somehow manages to be overrated with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 0%. This thing is up there with the absolute worst pieces of content (again, it's not really a movie) I've ever sat through for this site, and the best compliment I can give it is that it's only about 80 minutes long.

Don't just skip this piece of trash - avoid it. Run from it. Hide in your car if you have to - just don't make the mistake of watching it.