My whole family went to see Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas on the night the movie was released. It was the first time we had all gone together to the movies since our son Josh, who had just turned four, was born.
As a whole, I liked the movie. I found it to be a good positive argument for why Christians should embrace the celebration of Christmas. However, that very thing may be the movie's downfall. In this review I'll share two of the weaknesses to the film, and I will end with stating what I appreciate about it.
1. There wasn't a story. Good movies are driven by a good story. Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous were all movies that were driven by stories. They connected with audiences on an emotional level in so far as they told a believable story. Saving Christmas was not driven by a story. Rather, it was driven by a theological argument--with a story as window dressing.
2. It is an insider's Movie. As noted above, the movie was explicitly aimed at Christians. It seems that there was no attempt to hide this within the movie itself. One of the examples of this is the fact that the character of Kirk's brother-in-law is named Christian. I think this must have been very intentional. At one point, Kirk was making a statement to Christian about why all the modern trappings of Christmas are really about Jesus. His argument was addressed to "Christian," his brother-in-law; it's not too much to say that Cameron was really addressing his audience with the argument. The insider's feeling to the movie is understandable and to be expected with Christians as the target audience; however, I can imagine that this tone could be perceived as quite offensive to anyone who watches it from the outside of the faith. This is probably the reason why critics have been so merciless to the film. If you don't share the assumed worldview of the target audience, you probably won't like the movie at all.
1. The film maintains an authentic Christian worldview. While this is very close to what I stated as a weakness. As one who shares the worldview, I appreciate what Cameron was doing.
2. The film was informative. The story of Saint Nicolas is one that is probably unfamiliar to most Christians; however, it was one I had been familiar with for some time now. I really appreciate his attempt to redeem the image of Santa Claus, and to show that the real Nicolas was a Christian pastor who was passionate about orthodox Christology and who was known for his generosity--not to mention his concern for the purity of marriage.
3. The film was positive. It can be the temptation of many Christians making a film like this to get very negative and point to all the things wrong with how we celebrate Christmas. Cameron's film was anything but that. This movie about saving Christmas took a very different approach.
4. The film was prophetic. I don't mean this in the sense that it tells of future events (like another of Cameron's earlier movies). The finger of correction was not pointed to those on the outside of the faith, it was pointed at Christians themselves. It was an in-house corrective argument. Cameron was clearly communicating a message to Christians that we should embrace and enjoy the Christmas season, and to focus on how each aspect of Christmas can help us to worship Jesus. In this sense, I think the film is right on the money.
While the film seems to be taking a beating by many critics, I don't think that this is because they are somehow persecuting Kirk Cameron or Christians in general. Rather, I really don't think the film has what it takes to merit good reviews based on the standard that we normally use when we choose what movies we like. The fact that the movie was strictly driven by a theological argument and it has such an insider's feel to it will probably alienate many who go to see it who do not share the Christian world view.
One other thing: I also wouldn't recommend bringing an active 4 year old boy. It was good for our family to be together and enjoy a night out at the movies, but Josh really didn't have the attention span to sit through it.
All in all, I recommend the movie for Christians, but I think that any attempt to convince our unbelieving neighbors to go see the film might be frustrated by the weaknesses I've mentioned above.
Thank you to Kirk Cameron for making this movie!