A Christmas Hero is fascinating. Every indicator seems to point toward a docent at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum who’s suddenly come into some money and also has vague but strong feelings about planes and veterans, wanting to make a movie that doubles as a goodhearted holiday pick-me-up and some good advertising for the museum.
This is the film my brother would have written if someone told him there was no limit on what he could make, but he only had a budget of about $50,000 to work with. It is so oddly specific in its infatuation for old planes, and so imprecise yet zealous about the value of American military veterans, that I should think there is hardly any other explanation for this film’s existence than some mesh of the ideas I’ve pitched above.
That makes it difficult to go too hard on criticizing this film. It isn’t good, or well made, or even made with any apparent understanding of how pacing or character motivation is meant to work in a movie. And, truly, it seems to have been shot on an iPhone (look at the low light scenes in particular, of which there are many). It also seems to be peopled with real staff and visitors to the museum, as evinced by the the best takes they were able to get involving a lot of momentarily forgotten lines.
But again, it’s so small and so earnest about its passions–airplanes and the mental health and general worth of veterans–that one doesn’t want to be too cruel about it.
I’m dying to know why this film exists, and how it was created. The director has a number of other films, and I have a morbid curiosity to look them up one of these days. If, somehow, this movie was born out of the director’s head and not someone who works at this museum, then that is almost more fascinating a mystery to unravel.
A Christmas Hero stars some fellow who has two modes of acting: passive and shrieking. It is amazing to watch him go from one to the other. I don’t think his acting ambitions are totally misguided, but he would benefit from smoothing this valley of extremes out into more of a rolling landscape of nuanced behavior.
When our man arrives in a Hummer H3 to the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum, the audience is treated to no shit, 15 uninterrupted minutes of museum, war, and airplane lore before a real plot point arises: this very cool plane costs $40k to repair, and, well shucks, they just plum don’t have that much money. May as well just abandon the project forever.
We learn alarmingly late into the film that our man is in fact a character with a past: he suffers PTSD from his time fighting America’s wars and he took it out on his ex wife like a maniac when she wanted him to stick to his VA therapy appointments. What’s more, we learn that his best friend dies during the present moment in the film. These two times in his life are when we get our alarming high points from the actor.
Sometime around the halfway mark, it is revealed that an attractive woman who’s been following our man during his tours is, in fact, an angel–a guardian angel, to be exact, and she is here to teach him that being mean to his wife and ignoring therapy was bad.
It’s in this lesson, again, that one senses a disarming level of sincerity through all the incompetence of the film that makes one feel it would be in very poor taste to make too much fun of it. So I won’t.
I won’t spoil the end, but trust me that it is bland. It will please anyone who has made it this far into the film without complaint–people like my brother, I suppose.
Some moviegoers aren’t hypercritical. Some moviegoers don’t think about what kind of camera was used, or how strictly a film adheres to a three-act structure, or character development, or changes in scenery. Some moviegoers like airplanes and veterans, and for them this film might be good enough. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself.
As for me, I found it unbelievably difficult to get through. It was a wonder of bad filmmaking–I told my cohost Adam that this was, no shit, what would happen if a museum docent with some well saved money decided, on a whim, to do something good for airplanes and veterans, and hired some fellows off the Craigslist to make him a pitcher for Christmas, ultimately making something on the order of The Room.
I’m giving this film a 1 out of 10 and calling it Unwatchable.
But if you want to watch it, you can, on Hulu.