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FIRST-PERSON: Christmas movies — Bah! Humbug.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Well, it’s that time of the year, again. You know, when Hollywood celebrates our Savior’s birth with animated mice singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and the true meaning of Christmas is eclipsed by the obsession of owning an official Red Rider BB gun. And what would the Yuletide season be like without another dramatized slant on the Kris Kringle saga?

This December it’s Whoopi Goldberg’s chance to don the Santa suit. In TNT’s “Call Me Claus,” the Whoopster portrays a slick and cynical television producer who gets tapped by Father Christmas to become his replacement.

TNT has given us several delightful original productions. This isn’t one of them. Ms. Goldberg, an Oscar winner and talented comedian, walks through this nonsense completely devoid of wit or passion. I couldn’t find one amusing or honest moment in the entire production. At least I was able to see it without TNT’s cornucopia of commercials. I pity the poor family who sits through this sludge thinking they are in for a good “family” treat. It’s going to seem endless with all those commercials. Next year, when the studio releases “Call Me Claus” on video, trust me, the real Santa will use it to stuff the stockings of bad little boys and girls.

I promise, I haven’t turned into a bah, humbugger. I’ve simply grown weary of the barrage of holiday films that ignore the significance of December 25th. Allow me to suggest a few alternatives to things like Ashley and Mary Kate’s “The Case of The Christmas Caper.” Here are a few videos that celebrate Jesus and his affect on mankind. And with nary a reindeer in sight!

For Little Ones…

— The Greatest Adventure – The Nativity. Hanna /Barbera. Animated.

A respectful homage to the greatest story ever told, with three young archeologists going through a time portal and finding themselves in Jerusalem during the birth of Christ.

— The Night Before Christmas: And Best-Loved Yuletide Carols. Rabbit Ears Productions.

Meryl Streep reads the classic Christmas Eve tale by Charles Dickens with moving renditions of Christmas carols by George Winston, The Edwin Hawkins Singers and Christ Church Cathedral Choir set to breathtaking illustrations. The highlight: The Edwin Hawkins delivery of “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” which is both stirring and reverential.

For the entire family…

— The Fourth Wiseman. Gateway Films/Vision Video.

Based on the Henry Van Dyke tale of a good magi seeking the birthplace of Jesus, but, because of his duty to others, is delayed in the desert for 33 years, only to see (from afar) the Savior as He is being crucified. Martin Sheen stars as a devout man searching for the Messiah in order to give valuable treasures. But one by one he sells his priceless gifts to help the needy. Full of compassion and illustrations of how our Lord would have us treat our fellow man. Alan Arkin serves brilliantly as comic relief in his role as the magi’s servant, a self-serving man, eventually moved by his master’s selflessness.

— Cotton Patch Gospel is a musical comedy/drama placing the Gospel of Matthew in modern-day Georgia, with Jesus being born in Gainesville. Funny, moving, inspirational, with lively music by the late Harry Chapin. Ask your Christian bookstore to order it.

For after the little ones retire…

— The Gathering. Ed Asner, Maureen Stapleton.

This Emmy-winning TV-movie focuses on a dying man’s efforts to reunite his estranged family. It reinforces the importance of family and presents positive Christian images including a believable prayer, the scripture reading of Jesus’ birth, and a child’s christening.

— Three Godfathers. John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey, Jr. portray outlaws who come across a dying woman and her newborn baby. The symbolism between the Christ child and this new foundling has a redemptive effect on the three bandits. Sincere performances, beautiful cinematography and the skillful direction of John Ford highlight this insightful western.

— Saint Maybe. Blythe Danner, Edward Herrmann, Thomas McCarthy, Mary-Louise Parker. Hallmark.

When a ne’er-do-well finds himself the cause of his brother’s death, he seeks a reason for his life. He stumbles upon a church gathering and quickly turns his life around, living for others.

This affecting Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation has several powerful messages and life lessons, none of which overpowers the entertaining drama.

What a delight to find a film where scripture is quoted, the Christian lifestyle is not mocked, prayers are spoken, and the gospel message is put into practice.

— A Man Called Peter. Richard Todd, Jean Peters.

A sincere account of Peter Marshall, a Scotsman who became U. S. Senate chaplain. Tinged with a bit of schmaltzy Hollywood biography, the film comes alive with the recitation of actual sermons given by this devout man of God. You will be inspired by these sermons and be astonished at how well they relate to the times we are living in.

For a more extensive list of uplifting seasonal video treats – free – E-mail The Movie Reporter at [email protected].

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright