Thursday 11 December 2014

Christmas With A Capital C (2011)

There are times when I'm watching a movie that I start to wonder if I should continue watching it right through to the end. I always do. I'm a completist when it comes to movies. Even the worst films end up becoming some kind of endurance test. Yet a film like Christmas With A Capital C ends up being one of the more challenging viewings for me. Because I'm so far removed from the target audience. Should I even bother giving my opinion on it? Will my opinion be worth anything? Well, as conceited and arrogant as I have to be to keep writing nonsense like this daily, I tend to believe that I can always come at something from an angle which makes it worthwhile. In this case, I have to be upfront about why I realised I wasn't the target audience.

Christmas With A Capital C is a movie that could almost be summed up thus - one man (Daniel Baldwin) returns to his home town, intent on taking Christ out of Christmas. Locals, led by their mayor (Ted McGinley) fight back against him. Meanwhile, kids act sweet, adults are all warm and neighbourly to one another, and a little digging around unearths the fact that this troublemaker may have issues with something other than Christmas. Maybe he just needs shown the right path.

I am, and have been for many years, a happy atheist. That doesn't mean that I disparage, and dismiss, any personal beliefs. It just means that, yes, I start to feel irked when those beliefs are either thrust upon myself, or society as a whole. Many people will know what I'm talking about, I'm not going to use this review as an excuse to take a major sideroad. And that's why I wasn't sure about what to say about this movie. Because it's clearly very pro-religion. The title, and main driving factor of the plot, is derived from a song by Go Fish (a contemporary Christian band who tend nowadays to aim a lot of their music towards kids).

Yet, and I'm as surprised as anyone else by what I'm about to say, it's not actually THAT bad. And there are two reasons for that. First of all, the moments that show characters unable to repress their urge to shout out about Christmas having a capital C are settled among other moments that deliver some standard, pleasant family moments. Second, the scenes that show how the law can be used to keep religious activity/paraphernalia separate from government business are quite interesting. Whether they are based on truth or not, I have no idea. But I hope so, simply because I like to believe in that separation of church and state, as it were.

There is actually also a third reason for this film not being as bad as it could have been, and that's the cast. McGinley is very likable, even when he's being a bit self-assured and pious. Baldwin is appropriately unwavering in his attempt to keep the town a relatively Christianity-free zone, Nancy Stafford is fine as the wife of McGinley's character, and Cooper Peltz and Francesca Derosa play the two main kids, with the former being a teenage lad and the latter a young girl who just wants to be a singing angel at this time of year. They both do fine. In fact, they're better than Brad Stine, who is saddled with playing the kind of guy who assumes that kids will be entertained by short plays that comedically reinterpret the story of Christmas (and, in this film, they ARE).

The script by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell is pretty horrible at times, and director Helmut Schleppi seems content to stick scenes together with no fluidity or thought of context, so it's amazing that this doesn't sink right to the bottom of the barrel. It's preachy during many moments, of course, but it's aiming to preach to the converted, literally, in a way that feels just as positive and schmaltzy as many other festive outings.


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