Rick Santorum’s ‘Christmas Candle’ Brings You The Miracle Of A TV Movie On The Big Screen

It would be inaccurate to call The Christmas Candle a terrible movie, or even an especially bad movie. You can’t really hate it, because that would just take too much effort. Rather, it’s an almost instantly forgettable nothing of preachy sappiness, a completely predictable, by-the-numbers story about Christmas miracles. It’s not enjoyably bad, like the stuff you’d find on MST3K, or offensively bad, like the guy in charge of making it, EchoLight Studios chief Rick Santorum; it’s just a great big pile of earnest Christmassy meh, which mostly serves to answer the question, Can Susan Boyle act? (She can’t, not even in a small role).

This was supposed to be the movie that proved that explicitly Christian-oriented movies could compete with Hollywood, with high production values, real actors, and compelling stories. They got two out of three, but that last one is a killer. As far back as 2011, well before he actually took over a studio, Rick Santorum complained that Christian-oriented movies were mostly amateurish: “great message, terrible acting, horrible editing,” Santorum said. “They are not entertaining, they’re preachy.” The Christmas Candle does indeed look like a real movie, for the most part. Filmed mostly on the Isle of Man, it looks exactly like Christmas Movie Late-Victorian England, complete with period furniture, quaint rustics, and an obviously generous budget for costumes. The cast is a competent ensemble of faces you’ve seen on TV but will struggle to name — you’ll definitely recognize that one woman who was in that thing, and they even got Sylvester McCoy, the seventh Doctor from the pre-reboot Doctor Who, to play the weak-willed but decent candlemaker. Nobody completely embarrasses themselves, is what we’re saying; even Susan Boyle is only 70% wooden.

The story is predictable holiday fluff: A skeptical young minister, his faith shaken by a private tragedy, comes to take over the pulpit of the village of Gladbury (Presumably Happytown was too obvious), where the story is passed on from generation to generation of the Christmas Candle, with an instant mythology that can be delivered via a quick voiceover before the opening credits: an angel visits the candle shop every 25 years, blesses a candle, and a deserving person is given the candle and the inspiring message of hope, “Light this, and pray.” And then they get their Festivus Miracle. Ah, but the new minister, David Richmond (Hans Matheson), doesn’t want anything to do with that old-fashioned foolishness, blahblahblah. Complications ensue, the simple townsfolk discover the joy of helping each other, and the greatest miracle of all is God’s love as channeled through decent people. Oh, and there’s a beautiful Young Modern Woman, Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks), who you know is destined to fall in love with Richmond because they meet cute, and she doesn’t go to church, so there’s a kind of challenge to overcome, as ploddingly as possible.

It’s all pretty tedious, the stuff of a Hallmark movie, and it doesn’t help that the Big Miracle turns out to be that the candle itself glows with all the brilliant, life-saving light that a cheesy visual effects suite can muster. There’s a lot of talk about Light and Jesus, of the vaguely inspirational sort appropriate to a Christmas movie, no hellfire and damnation stuff, thankfully. Just about the only thing in the movie that seems especially tailored to a Rick Santorum sensibility comes at the very end of the film, after Reverend Richmond and Miss Barstow find their faith and each other: there’s a dissolve, and a title telling us “One Year Later, and then it seems like almost everybody in the little church is holding a baby. So yes, miracles and fecundity, Merry Christmas, the end. The closing credits roll over a scene of the whole babby-juggling village singing “Miracle Hymn,” a treacly carol written by Boyle for the film, but since the movie seems to be kind of bombing at the box office, there’s probably little danger the carol will leak beyond the confines of Christian FM radio.

About the best to be said for The Christmas Candle is that it looks very pretty; if you really need a dose of Rustic England, though, you’d do better to go find some reruns of the old BBC All Creatures Great and Small, which has the added attraction of large-animal veterinary procedures.

On a scale of Applejack to Princess Luna, The Christmas Candle is one of those nameless background ponies that the fandom hasn’t even come up with a name for.

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  • Botlrokit

    Christian movies have one responsibility: to incorporate Jesus into the dénouement. Imagine if “Back To The Future” was that way; the flux capacitor would be powered by Jesus.

    • johnnymeatworth

      You mean like in the Christian version of Die Hard when Jesus throws Hans Gruber out of the skyscraper and says “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker?”

      • Botlrokit

        Not before forgiving him of his sins, and preparing a place for him in Heaven, Johnny.

      • Kgprophet

        Or that Christian version of Jurassic Park, where Jesus wrestles the T-Rex to the ground?

  • Señor Skwerl

    Movies like these promote atheism. And heroin usage.

  • Tansygeek

    Why are these things always set in the Victorian age? Christmas miracles = Charles Dickens = Thomas Kincade = softly light warm fuzzies ? Without the freezing to death, typhoid epidemics etc

    • MrBlifil

      So true. The Victorians were famously non-observant in the area of Christmas cheer. The Christmas tree was a German custom for fuck’s sake. Pretty sure there was a famous book written with the intention of reminding the British affluent class of the 1840s that they maybe shouldn’t be a bunch of godless selfish assholes all the time.

    • Arcturus

      Because frozen blacktop streets, crack pipes and beggars just don’t have the same charm.

    • njguy54

      Because we all miss the Thames being an open sewer.

  • Squirrel_t_robot

    Somehow, Victorian England still defines Christmas for Right wingers.Remember the movie ‘Ordinary People’? The MTM character wants to have their Christmas in London, and she says it would be like something from Dickens.That line is hilarious! Yeah, if you want your Christmas to look like Victorian England, it’s going to a pretty miserable one.What she meant was Currier and Ives, a common enough error.

    • njguy54

      Victorian England: It’s all fun and games until everyone dies of cholera.

  • How many Christians will complain about that awful “modern” hussy showing up in their Xmas parable? It’ll be like all those irritating astrophysicists complaining about the fast-n-loose science in “Gravity.”

  • Luke Cage

    All Creatures Great and Small = Doctor Who spinoff series.True. Look it up.

  • MrBlifil

    I got your Xmas candle right here.

  • Farb

    Rick has only a tenuous hold on reality, so looking backward seems to work for him.

    • njguy54

      Candles = Bleeding edge technology

  • unhipcat

    that problem with the lights was they just needed a smaller fuse.

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    • Frau From Fly-Over USA

      I resemble that statement, mister!

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  • $73376667

    A preacher makes a babby? The bishops are going to have to have a talk with Santorum about that one…

  • Poly_Ester

    Was Miss Barstow cohabiting with a physician when she met Richmond? Its always about projection, after all.

  • andreamd

    Besides the perfect(original) Miracle on 34th Street, I watch every crappy modern version of a Christmas Carol(the ones with Tori Spelling and Vanessa Williams- really awful), any Christmas movie with people I really like- despite the obvious crappiness(Jewel Staite and Claire Coffee) and dogs- I like Christmas movies with dogs. I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas but I watch your movies for you- so you don’t have to suffer.

    • njguy54

      Christmas movies are like clothes: Stick with the classics, and you won’t go wrong.

  • njguy54

    Santorum will probably be able to make some money off this simply by marketing it to churches and Christian schools.

  • savethispatient

    Filmed on the Isle of Man. Pronounced: “I luv man”.

  • dsmith

    A movie produced by white people for white people. I would have thought Santorum would have produced a story that took place in God fearin’ A-mer-ka.

    • Lynn

      or, you know, the middle east. lol

  • Kaylakaze

    “one of those nameless background ponies that the fandom hasn’t even come up with a name for.”Is there really such a pony!? If so, we need to pin a name on that ASAP

  • marjo

    Boyle didn’t write the hymn.