Christmas with a Capital C: And the Legend Continues…
Wow. I did not see the ending to Christmas with a Capital C coming, and to judge from the comments, neither did many of you. I think we were all of us assuming the typical Christian movie ending: Mitch would be shown up, humiliated, and triumphed over by our Christian “heroes,” who would not only succeed in getting their nativity scene up at city hall, where God wants it to be, but would also personally lead evil atheist Mitch back to Christ.
Instead, although Mitch is humiliated some at the impromptu party at his empty house, by the end of the movie, he seems to have triumphed in every conceivable way: the nativity scene will be showcased elsewhere, he has a great job and will almost certainly be raising the entire town’s fortunes, and his mayoral campaign appears to be only temporarily be “set aside.” Indeed, Dan’s bitter prediction that the whole town would “forgive” Mitch for his “lies” appears to come true.
(On the matter of Mitch’s “lies”: looking back over the movie, the only time I can see where Mitch even arguably lied is the very first scene, in which he tells Dan and Greg that the U-Haul has “all his stuff” inside it. Which it probably does, notwithstanding that he doesn’t have a lot of stuff. Dan and Kristin later assume that the van took stuff away from the house, and it looks like it did, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t also taking Mitch’s possessions to the house. (It appears that Mitch has kept most of his clothes and enough personal supplies so he can semi-comfortably “camp” in his house for weeks on end.))
And, as in Part 3 of my critique, I would argue that such a lie pales in comparison to the lies Dan and Greg tell Mitch’s friend and co-worker…lies they flew 3,000 miles just to tell him.
Now, on to whether this movie was indeed a “true” RTC flick: commenters suggest several intriguing possibilities for why the ending of the movie is as astonishing as it is: executive input, non-RTC writing input, even an overall softening of the typical anti-atheism so prevalent in Christian entertainment.
Is this some kind of strange stealth job, in which an ostensibly RTC movie features the triumph of an atheist over narrow-minded and oppressive Christians?
First of all, I never did include the trailer, so here it is!
And, as is becoming more and more common in Christian films, there are actually goodies on this DVD, including a “making-of” featurette, so let’s explore!
The featurette immediately takes us to young Francesca Derosa, who plays Makayla. Introducing us to the plot, she calls Mitch Dan’s “enemy” and the “bad guy.”
(Mayor Dan) give us his take on the story:
“In this movie, we’re talking about it right up front: y’know, this is a Christian family, with Christian values, and they’re not gonna not just talk about them, but they’re gonna find themselves pushed in a corner by the sort of political correctness of so much of the world today. And they’ve just decided that the only way to fight back is through what they really believe is their Christian values and beliefs, which is be kind, do the right thing. And wash the feet of the worst among you.”
“Be kind”? That’s what the Reeds were supposed to be? Okay, Makayla is kind. I will give you that. She is the only person in the movie who ever expresses concern for Mitch’s welfare and feelings. But Dan? Greg??? Sorry, I can think of many words to describe them, but “kind” is not one of them.
Oh, and I don’t think giving Mitch his own money counts as Christian-washing-of-feet. That was more like just-barely-deciding-not-to-be-thieves.
Nancy Stafford (Kristin) thinks of her character as the “conscience” of the story, which…no. That would, again, be Makayla.
Daniel Baldwin, however, earns my respect immediately by focusing on the development of his character instead of the “message” of the movie.
And…oh my. Turns out that Greg Reed/Jesus/Geico Caveman’s whole character was based off of Brad Stine’s own “comedy” routines. So yeah, the unwatchable diatribe from the coffee shop is actually a nearly word-for-word copy of Stine’s onstage rant.
Stine appears to have been directed to tone it down a bit for the movie. The featurette has a clip of Stine doing the rant for an audience, and his portrayal of the kind of person who wishes people “Happy Holidays” is…well, it’s something. And that something is a hand-on-hip, high-pitched, lisping, cross-eyed person.
Draw from that what conclusions you will.
(I’m not about to post a video of him here, but you can find his “work” on YouTube if you’re curious.)
A great deal of talk about how everyone got along, and how beautiful the Alaskan landscape is (very true). Daniel Baldwin gets even more props from me: his first thought is for others: that it will be a real challenge to match footage, what with snow falling then not falling, etc.
A lot of very vague things are said of the movie’s “spiritual message,” but there is one intriguing quote from David Cuddy, who was the executive producer and played the brown-nosing coach:
“The message, I think, is: figure out what your philosophy and your priorities are and stick with them, and don’t let yourself be pushed around.”
Okay, I am pretty damn sure he is not talking about Mitch, here, but honestly, I think it applies more to Mitch than to any other character. Mitch knows what his philosophy is, knows what his priorities are (and I happen to think they are pretty good priorities, like raising his hometown’s economic standing and helping others), and he doesn’t let himself be pushed around by RTC blowhards like Dan and Greg. Indeed, he meets such opposition with a sense of humor, and when he can’t do that…well, let’s just say that I stand by my philosophy that Mitch Bright is a master of the Long Game.
So, whaddaya think? Funnily enough, I think my final conclusion is that although the movie is not anti-atheist, that may have been by accident. Overall, this is yet another instance in Christian entertainment of the creators being utterly unaware of how characters look to others. Where they see good Christians living by good, kind family values, we see characters who are, at their best, smug, obnoxious, self-absorbed, and self-righteous. And at their worst, they are liars, would-be thieves, and aggressive jerks who delight in the pain of others.
Humans are fascinating: how is it possible that we see things so differently?
Well, this whole enterprise has been remarkable. Happy Wintermas, Part I, all!