Every year around Christmas-time my academic friends and I gather around a big screen TV to get shitripped and watch an inspirational Christian-themed movie ironically. It’s a roaring good time–once a former Vanderbilt football player almost choked to death during our screening of Fireproof because of its confused racial politics and also, you know…
Last year we selected Christmas Cottage, a film that tells the true story of how artist Thomas Kinkade started his career, saved his mother’s foreclosed house, and brought a town that is maybe run with an iron fist by Chris Elliott (yes, that Chris Elliott) together in the Holiday (sorry, Christmas) spirit by painting a nightmarish mural after skipping the day they taught perspective at art school. There is a pageant, some light cursing, and a weird amount of double entendre that the film’s target audience (your grandmother’s Bible club) will probably not pick up on. So, in other words, fun for the whole family if your family is a bunch of drunk graduate students.
Thomas Kinkade? Why is that name familiar? Thomas Kinkade is the “painter of light”, a genuinely shitty artist who for years has made millions selling hilariously overwrought, idyllic “artistic” abortions to one percent yuppies who were too cheap to buy taste. He is hated by art critics and beloved by Christians for his wholesome works featuring Jesus, soldiers, and weirdly disturbing Hobbit holes.
As seen on AMC’s Hoarders: Middle Earth Edition
And one could argue that Thomas Kinkade maybe really does process light in a different way. For example, in the film he is portrayed by Jared Padalecki, a very handsome young man who looks like this:
“I’m often mistaken for C. T. Bland’s homelier brother. Sigh…”
In reality, or at least to those of us who don’t see the light quite like he does, Kinkade looks like a circus goblin who doesn’t think you’ll ever manage to guess his name before the deadline passes and he takes your firstborn child away:
The light was being a real C-word that day.
The picture above is a mugshot taken after Kinkade was arrested for public urination… at Disneyland. A while earlier he was kicked out of a Siegfried and Roy show for shouting “codpiece” over and over… and over, in what one assumes were the sweaty throes of making sweet love to a margarita. Thomas Kinkade, painter of light, is too wacky for Siegfried and Roy, one of whom was mauled by a tiger while wearing glitter make up.
There’s an ongoing disagreement between me and my friends about whether Christmas Cottage is ham-handed hagiography of a douchebag with less talent than most painting apes or a biting satire riffing on Hallmark movie archetypes. I’m in the latter camp. Exhibit one is Peter O’Toole (or, more accurately, Peter O’Toole’s corpse), who appears in the film as Kinkade’s mentor/banshee who lives in the family’s barn. He dispenses nonsensical advice to Thomas such “Paint the Light, Thomas!”, “Art is About Life!“ and “Close the Damn Door!” in tremulous, milky-eyed tones that will remind discerning viewers of every single scene from Awakenings.
In the course of the film, Zombie O’Toole recites “Humpty Dumpty” not once, but twice, for reasons that are known only to him; possibly he’s alluding to a string of unsolved animal mutilations that happened in my home town a few years ago (that’s how I choose to interpret it, anyway). He is the rabid bridge troll of the movie (he even carries a walking stick I assume was pilfered from Gandalf’s love dungeon), showing up when needed to speak in riddles and terrify children.
Unfortunately, the movie never lets us know what this crazed misfit toy truly thinks about the Chinese problem, other than that he apparently missed the memo on how you can’t say “Oriental” anymore. Exhibit two is Marcia Gay Harden as Thomas’ mother, who seems to believe that she’s been cast in a movie about hysterical women experiencing the first tingle of menopause. It’s a shrill performance that looks to have been phoned in from whatever planet Jon Waters is from. Her arc goes like this: “I’m losing my house! Oh Christ, The Pageant! Wootwootwoot! Why is it so hot in here?!? I’m not losing my house!” If my theory is correct and The Christmas Cottage is satire then O’Toole and Harden are either very much in on the joke, or very much out of it.
Zombie O’Toole: I made a painting of you as you slept. With my poo.
Hardin: I’m bad at math.
Either way, it’s terribly fun to watch these two established professionals shred their way through the script, which was written by a monkey (who is also possibly a Christian). If I’m wrong… It doesn’t matter. Drink the rest of your beer.
Whether the movie is attempting camp or simply stumbling into it by accident, it’s great fun to watch while imbibing and rewinding every few minutes to rewatch the characters say or do something that no sane person ever would. The man who pissed on Mickey Mouse is at one point likened to our savior Jesus Christ with utter seriousness–it’s that kind of movie. Did I mention that Chris Elliott is in this, playing someone who I think is maybe the mayor, or else is the king of the tent city all the pedophiles had to set up on the outskirts of town? There’s a moral in there somewhere, maybe about how being mediocre and following your mediocre dreams can sometimes lead you all the way to the bank?
The things that make this movie terrible are also the things that make it great. Like so many films aimed at sincere Christian audiences, the fallen heathen may well enjoy a viewing with friends while getting appropriately bombed.
Much like Thomas Kinkade at Disneyland.
Holiday Bonus Drinking Game
Sip on egg nog: every time Chris Elliott appears seemingly out of nowhere to do something vaguely menacing
Have a toddy: whenever Peter O’Toole’s corpse emerges from the shadows to clack its teeth together in a grotesque attempt at forming language
Down some Irish Crème: when Ed Asner wanders in from some other movie set to scowl at everyone. Seriously, he doesn’t seem to know how he ended up in this goddamn barn/banshee cave looking at a Thomas Kinkade painting.