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These days, it’s easy to get caught up in the war over religious and constitutional rights as they relate to Christianity. This battle is a necessary and important one to fight, but the conflict naturally intensifies at Christmas, when the secular world attempts to find a way to celebrate the holiday without acknowledging that it’s an innately Christian one.
Christmas with a Capital C couldn’t be more timely or relevant, as it tackles this prevalent issue that seems to infest Christmas every year. With plenty of comedy and a light touch that prevents the serious topic from making a heavy film, Christmas with a Capital C goes beyond the Christmastime battle over political rights to bring us back to what really matters—the true meaning of, and reason to celebrate, Christmas.
It’s Christmastime in Trapper Falls, Alaska, and the small town is busy with the festivities of the season. Mayor Dan Reed, who grew up in the close-knit community, leads his friends in garnishing with their traditional decorations and planning their usual Christmas events—many of which publically feature the nativity and such exclusively Christian content as the word “Christmas.”
Celebrating the Christmas holiday with such traditions doesn’t bother the town—after all, they’ve been doing these things for years, and most members of the community are churchgoing folks. But this peaceful Christmas scene is flipped on its head with the return of Mitch Bright, a former resident and high school rival of Dan. During Mitch’s absence, stories of his business and financial success in the big city had reached the residents of Trapper Falls. Twenty years after his departure, Mitch arrives looking appropriately rich, with a cynical sophistication to match.
Mitch obviously has a score to settle with his old enemy, Dan, who also married the woman Mitch competed for with Dan. Mitch’s method for revenge? To attack the Christian principles Trapper Falls has followed for decades. Of course, Mitch isn’t initially so honest about the motivation for his actions, but rather denies that his issue is personal, as he lodges a legal complaint against the town’s traditional nativity display. That objection is just the beginning of Mitch’s systematic attempt to remove all Christian aspects of Trapper Fall’s holiday season.
The unexpected assault leaves Dan and the rest of the town reeling. But while the strong Christians gear up for a fight, other residents of Trapper Falls start to wonder if Mitch is right that the town should be more “inclusive.” When Mitch decides to run against Dan for mayor, a position Dan has held without competition for years, the core values and character of the people of Trapper Falls are tested as never before. A town divided and the apparent ruination of Christmas is not what Dan, his family, and the town ever expected this holiday season would bring.
The script for Christmas with a Capital C could have easily been labeled as “based on a true story,” given how many similar events, involving legal battles over publically-displayed nativity scenes and other Christian symbols, have transpired in recent U.S. history. This issue is a tense and volatile one, especially for Christians. Yet this film avoids being preachy or getting weighed down by the subject matter by approaching the story in a lighthearted manner.
At the core of this tale is Dan, a Christian man who struggles to lead his family, friends, and a whole town during a time of crisis. In the midst of his big problems, Dan is kept grounded by normal family issues and events, as life for the Reed family goes on. In addition to demonstrating good leadership in his mayor capacity, then, Dan also sets a good example at home, as he stays involved in the lives of his son and daughter, helping them through their process of growing up.
Dan’s brother, Greg, also offers his input and time with the kids. Greg’s support, though, sometimes gets out of hand, as he’s the more excitable and gauche of the Reed brothers. Greg is an enthusiastic Christian, and Mitch’s attack on Christianity and Dan doesn’t sit well with Greg, who is incited to defend his faith and family. Greg’s efforts and goofy personality give the filmmakers plenty of opportunity for comic relief.
Even so, Greg’s over-the-top scenes don’t seem as funny as Dan’s more clever wit and the warm moments of humor shared between Dan and his wife, Kristen. This marriage relationship provides one of the film’s most inspiring elements, as the couple shares an encouraging friendship and abiding love that enables them to easily weather any storm that comes their way.
The most profound message of the film, however, is in its unexpected handling of the issues of religious discrimination and the secularization of Christmas. Rather than get lost in the divisive face-off of Christians against atheists (or whatever belief system they may follow), the characters in this film work their way to a realization that the very battle for their rights is taking them away from what they should be doing—celebrating the Christ of Christmas. After all, there’s no point in the freedom to say “Merry Christmas,” if one doesn’t actually celebrate Christ by living as He instructed and showing His love to the world.
The growth and change of the Reed family, as they lead the town in a transforming view of Christmas, is moving and thought-provoking, thanks to the strong performances of Ted McGinley as Dan and Nancy Stafford as Kristen. These two actors share a chemistry that makes their marriage relationship real and appealing, while they both competently meet the comedic and emotional demands of their characters.
Daniel Baldwin as Mitch is equally solid, but the cast as a whole is not as universally strong as in other Pure Flix features, with some of the supporting roles played by actors who are far from convincing or even natural. This is especially the case with the young actors playing the teen characters.
The role of Greg is adequately and appropriately filled by professional comedian Brad Stine. Stine slips easily into his character, as the part demands little more than a comedian’s usual work. Some of Stine’s comedy in this film is funny, and the story is benefited by the humor that balances otherwise serious content, but while some viewers may laugh at Greg’s behavior, others may not enjoy such an obvious effort for laughs that threatens the reality of the film. Of more concern is Stine’s tendency to go too far with his improvisational humor, nearing and sometimes crossing the line between appropriate and inappropriate comedy.
Thanks to Greg, there are a few uncomfortable moments in this movie, but they’re brief and not too serious. Another element parents will want to watch out for comes up in a scene in which the teen-girl obsession with reading vampire novels is not only accepted, but dismissed as harmless. It’s implied that Dan’s son even starts reading vampire books (with full knowledge of his parents) in order to learn why the girls he knows like them so well.
Such inappropriate content is disappointing and doesn’t fit the strong Christian message at the heart of Christmas with a Capital C. In the end, however, the Christian elements are powerful enough to overcome the few lapses and result in a redemptive film. The script could have been bolder and more clearly defined the rights Christians legally have in the U.S. that they are being persuaded to believe they don’t possess, but winning the political war against Christianity is not the goal of this film.
Rather, Christmas with a Capital C aims to put Christ back in Christmas. With a needed reality-check, this movie reminds viewers that Christians don’t need nativity scenes or even the freedom to say “Merry Christmas” in order to celebrate the birth of the Savior who taught us that love and the Gospel is what Christmas and life are all about.
Check out these similar titles:
Christmas Child (Impact Productions, 2008)
Marriage Retreat (Pure Flix, 2011)
Faith of Our Fathers (Documentary, Bridgestone Multimedia Group, 2007)