I was discussing the holiday movies that I’ve been reviewing with the fine folks at Grindhouse Theology and I was asked: Are you watching Kirk Cameron’s movie? This was the sell job: “It’s definitely a front-runner for worst movie ever put the celluloid. There’s just something wrong with the folks behind it.” Well, obviously that was all it took to get me to watch it.
This is a movie so poorly reviewed that Kirk Cameron himself claimed that the low scores — including being ranked at the very bottom of the IMDB’s Bottom One Hundred Films — were the result of “haters, pagans and an atheist conspiracy that was allegedly hatched on Reddit.”
Directed by Darren Doane — who also directed music videos for Blink 182, Nile, Buckcherry and Uncle Cracker — this is a 79-minute sermon delivered by the former child star of TV’s Growing Pains. It’s also a movie where he tries to convince his brother-in-law that Christmas is wonderful — even the modern version of it — while proving the Biblical roots of the commercialized parts of the holiday.
Honestly, I don’t even know if I can properly encapsulate this film for you. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try.
Before the story even begins, Kirk Cameron — as himself, not the fictionalized version of Kirk we’ll soon meet — addresses us directly from his fireplace. He loves Christmas, but hates that atheists have taken the holiday away while fundamentalist Christians have pushed their agenda that the holiday is based on pagan traditions and make accusations that the holiday has become too tied to materialism. Also: Santa Claus is a Christian.
The movie then starts. It takes place at a Christmas party attended by what I can imagine are Tyrell Corporation replicants. Kirk is there but he notices that his brother-in-law Christian (the film’s director, Darren Doane) isn’t celebrating because he feels that the holiday has become too commercialized and he feels uncomfortable as a Christian (named Christian) with the pagan elements of the season. Kirk then dropped some (well, certainly not) science and explains the Nativity while two other party guests discuss conspiracy theories.
The narrative flow of the movie works like this: Christian says something he believes in and Kirk gently chides him and then explains what an idiot he is. For example, Christmas trees are not Biblical in original, right? Wrong. God made trees. And we should see a cross every time we see a Christmas tree. You can see the logic. But it’s a leap. If you can make these leaps, then you can watch this film and get something from it. You just have to let Kirk take you on a ride.
Sure, the date and role of the Wise Men may be questionable, but the swaddling cloth of the baby Jesus is the same as his burial shroud and the gifts of the Magi were embalming medicines and oh yeah, nutcrackers should represent the Herod’s soldiers in your Nativity scene.
But hasn’t Santa co-opted the holiday from Jesus? Isn’t Santa just another way to say Satan? Kirk has the answers to this, too. Santa is Saint Nicholas, showing the First Council of Nicaea in which Jesus’ divinity was questioned and Nicholas beat the shit out of Arius for his heresy, winning over the people. Afterward, he’d beat up any atheist he met, which means that Saint Nick was “bad, in a good way.” After a day of beating up those who don’t believe, the man who would be Santa’s wife tells him it’s time to deliver gifts to kids as he stares at the camera like a maniac. It’s one of the most disconcerting moments in the film. Christian is won over and yells that “Santa is the man.”
Christian and Kirk return to the party. Kirk makes fun of people who say the holiday is too commercialized, explaining that because God took on material form, it’s fine to celebrate that by giving expensive gifts. After all, God gave us a pretty expensive gift. I need this logic to explain why I’ve bought so many DVDs. Kirk then breaks the fourth wall and asks us to make Christmas religious again for our children.
Remember Christian? Well, he’s done something great for his family. He’s organized a hip hop holiday dance, at which point we get an extended breakdance sequence set to the tune of an EDM “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
Kirk says it’s time to feast, but reminds us to not forget about God. Then, nine minutes of credits pad out the film’s running time.
For everyone that delights in making fun of this movie, it really feels like shooting fish — Jesus was a fisherman — in a barrel. This is a $500,000 movie that tries to be an earnest sermon on how its creators believe. Except it’s also a movie that tries to tell a narrative story.
It’s only when we read too much into things — if that’s Kirk’s real sister, why isn’t the brother-in-law played by the real brother? Where’s Candace Cameron, his somewhat of a bigger star sister, and her husband, hockey player Valeri Bure? Why was there no hot chocolate in Kirk’s mug in the overly earnest open? Does anyone who made this movie not realize that the DeAndre character is racist in its depiction of black people? Is anyone mad that they co-opted dubstep? Why wasn’t POD in this movie?
That said, I’m not going to make fun of Kirk for being a child star or his earnestly vacant stare. Obviously, this was not a movie made for me. I also don’t think it was made for Christians. I think it was made for Kirk, his family and close multiethnic friends. Things just got out of hand and it ended up being released in theaters and they had to go along with it. I mean, I don’t think this is Kevin Sorbo’s Let There Be Light or Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. I don’t think this is some far right wing conservative religious let’s get the Apocalypse and Rapture (not in that order) started early propaganda film. And it’s not the worst holiday movie I’ve ever seen — trust me, I’m getting to that. I’ve seen Christmas movies that have ruined my mind and destroyed my soul. And I’ll be sharing them with you soon enough.