Have you ever gotten sucked into one of those films sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints where the acting is kind of terrible and over the top, the writing is both simplistic and heavy-handed, and there’s just no way you could ever change the channel? A Christmas Tree Miracle is like that from the get-go, but it’s strangely enjoyable in its awfulness, and I can’t say I wasn’t vaguely entertained by the whole mess.
The George family is a typical example of modern overconsumption. Their lives are rife with first world problems and the kids, to be perfectly honest, are spoiled. Clearly these are people who are used to getting what they want, so when David (Kevin Sizemore) loses his job, they are all stunned. There is no income to take care of their upcoming expenses, and no way to pay for all of the things they bought on credit. Like so many Americans, the Georges appear affluent, but few of their possessions are actually paid for.
And so begins their slippery slide into penury. First some of the big Christmas gifts go back, then the teenage boy’s new car, and finally things hit rock bottom: it’s time to let go of their cell phones. “Ew, a land line!” croaks the teenage daughter. Losing the house and moving into a motel is nothing compared to that.
Soon enough money for the motel runs out as well, and the Georges find themselves truly homeless. However, for all of their greed and selfishness, the family is not completely without virtue. One day Mr. George bought a cup of coffee for a man who seemed to have no money and was about to be kicked out of a cafe. This simple act of kindness left a big impression upon Henry Banks (Terry Kiser), who was not homeless after all. They run into each other again, and Banks doesn’t hesitate to pay it forward by inviting the entire family to stay at his Christmas tree farm.
No stranger to charity, Banks has been raising Christmas trees and giving them away free of charge for years, which, inexplicably, surprises every single customer who comes through. In a town this small, you’d think word of free trees would spread like wildfire, but not a single person shows up because the trees are free. You know why? Because kindness is a magic that can’t be questioned, and the Georges have a lot to learn from this exceedingly generous and hospitable man. Indeed, most of the movie’s charm comes from watching the family interact with Banks. The more you stare at him, the more you think, “I know this guy,” and you do. Henry Banks is none other than Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s. He’s also the only member of the cast with an iota of talent.
Though A Christmas Tree Miracle is essentially a heavy-handed morality tale, it does have its share of touching moments. The characters may be over the top, but it is genuinely sweet watching the snobby teenage daughter become friends with a humble girl from the shelter. Stripped of their possessions, the Georges are forced to question who they are as people, and every once in a while, watching them get it right puts a stupid tear in your eye.