The 1st Annual Exploratory Christmas Film Endeavor

This year in Ohio (or at least, my part of Ohio) the weather has been warm. I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with climate change. I’m just sure of it. And because I’m so sure, I can observe without worry, that we’ve experienced more Spring-like days in November and December than we did in all of Spring during this past year. There’s no goddamn snow, is what I’m trying to say.

It just doesn’t feel Christmasy. Last year, I had more money in my pocket at this time of year, and I went all-out for Christmas. I bought for everyone of my family and close friends, I covered the house in decorations, I invited friends over for a party, I just gave it my all. This year, I’ve got no money, no snow…it might as well be April.

I’ve thus decided to give my Christmas spirit an attempted shot in the arm by watching at least one Christmas special or film every day from 1 December to Christmas day (which I suspect I’ll round out with A Christmas Story). I’m cramming as many of these things in as I possibly can. And it may be killing me.

So far, I’ve seen (in no order, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few):

  • Every Christmas episode of South Park
  • Every Christmas episode of American Dad
  • Hey Arnold! episode “Arnold’s Christmas”
  • One of the SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas episodes
  • The notorious 1991 low-budget cartoon The Christmas Tree
  • Home Alone
  • Elf
  • A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
  • A Very Murray Christmas
  • Bratz Babyz: Save Christmas
  • Ernest Saves Christmas
  • Happy Christmas

There are many more to come (including every important one), and tonight, my flick is 2013’s A Country Christmas. Which is just the worst.

So I’m gonna blog about it.

I don’t know where this movie came from. It’s a bit long for a TV movie, but too shitty to have possibly appeared in theaters. It has no Wikipedia page so far as I can tell, and stars both “Amy” from Chasing Amy and the guy who played Zia’s room mate for one early scene in Wristcutters: A Love Story.

A Country Christmas sounded to me like it might be some sort of bizarre hillbilly sideshow sort of affair, loaded with Larry The Cable Guy types. And I would have had a better time sitting through that, I think, had that been the case. Unfortunately though, it appears to be something that fell off the recent trend of self-servicing Christian films that have taken off in the past few years. Maybe I was naive growing up, and these films were always out there (of course we know about the rare well-knowns like Left Behind) but I think this is a very recent development. In my opinion, it’s a natural byproduct of the relatively new Evangelical movement that has only been around in this country for the past handful of decades.

The idea behind every movie of this sort is as follows: Christians are a persecuted minority, and liberals and atheists are cold-hearted, joyless know-it-alls. What makes A Country Christmas so unique though, is that it tries its damnedest to tell a metaphorical story. Are you ready for it?

Some jerk-ass politician has driven a successful campaign to ban Santa Claus from public discourse and public schools. A teacher is reprimanded for mentioning Santa Claus in her classroom. The earnest, hard-working parents of this film (one of whom is dying of cancer, of course) are mad that the world doesn’t want their kids to believe in Santa Claus.

There are other little bits of Christian messages, some more subtle than others. Santa tells the kids that the Big Guy Upstairs has a plan; he always does. That would be one of the instances where they didn’t bother to mask their message at all. The writers are not, I suppose, naturally subtle (or especially skilled) people.

Some of this would be fine if it weren’t so transparently self-pitying and, worse, if it weren’t written as if for children. This is a movie that paints by the numbers and relies entirely on predictable tropes, without giving a bit of effort to put a new spin on them. Nothing about this movie tries to do more than the bare minimum. Nothing about this movie is entertaining or interesting. Santa and an elf have set up shop in these kids’ barn, and I just don’t give a shit. I can’t even play along and pretend to give a shit.

The writing talks down to its audience, and the dialog is not the sort that comes out of real humans’ mouths when they speak to one another. I would say the acting is hammy, but one has to make an effort to achieve hamminess. The story is the sort of thing a child would come up with if that child was a politically indignant conservative. Which brings us to the bad guy, Santa-banning politician who serves, though apparently half-asleep, as the movie’s villain. He calls out a mother for having cancer in front of an audience, then makes her daughter cry. Try harder, why don’tcha?

The shots are nothing special. The set-ups are ridiculous (can Santa and the kids really clean the barn up of all those decorations before dear old Dad gets there? Well, they can through jump-cutting, Dad stopping to inspect every paint chip or loose saddle buckle he notices, and a moment of Santa pointing out [in one of the subtler allusions] that they can all accomplish more by working as a team). Half of this movie takes place in a barn for godssakes.

I wouldn’t be so mad at this movie if I felt like it gave a shit. But it doesn’t. They cared just enough to get the process of moviemaking started with the ultimate goal, I have to assume, of pushing subtle messages about the oppression of believers by the gubbermint. But that’s where the passion stopped. Once production started, everyone, probably down to the last key grip, phoned it in. I could maybe get some fun out of a shameless propaganda film if the movie seemed to be having any fun itself.

But it isn’t here. This was excruciating to watch.

It gets ★☆☆☆☆ where the single star is for it technically being a movie.

It gets 4 out of 5 riding crops on the Cinema Sadism Pain Index for its miserable everything, where I reserve a 5th crop because I was able to make it through without turning it off. In practice though, it was absolutely miserable. 11th grade Chem class for a kid who just wants to draw in the margins of his notebook miserable.

I give it 4 unconvincing Santa Claus actors out of 5, and, on the GBU scale I deem it:

UNWATCHABLE

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