As the month of November begins, the countdown for the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner is underway, as is the countdown to Christmas. And even though families anticipate the large turkey feast that awaits, it is never too early to begin watching Christmas movies. Classic Christmas movies such as A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are but a mere handful to the hundreds out there, but who doesn’t love new Christmas movies to add to the fan favorites? The Christmas Project is one such new movie that provides a warm heartfelt holiday message to children and adults alike.
It is the Christmas of 1986 and the Buckley family begins their tradition of choosing a family to secretly “Elve” for the holiday season. With Mrs. Buckley expecting a baby at any moment, she puts her four boys in charge of the year’s tradition, but not before picking the family they will “Elve”: the Hagbarts. The Buckley brothers are not thrilled to be doing a kindness to their bullies at school, especially eleven-year-old Matthew. Will Matthew and his brothers be able to share the Christmas spirit with those who seem to house no kindness in their hearts or will they find some opportunity to get revenge?
Michael Buster’s third directed film The Christmas Project is a cute new addition to any family Christmas movie collection and is available on DVD as of November 3rd, just in time for the 2016 holiday shopping season. It is an incredibly family-friendly film from the fun gimmicks children will find relatable to the adorable child actors to excellent messages to even how the movie was filmed. The way it is filmed is not like a normal movie, but rather looks like a home movie. This gives it a more realistic feel for the viewers. The Christmas Project is based on the novels Chickens in the Headlights and Bullies in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley. The books are geared more towards the elementary reading level, but provide laughs for both younger and older readers as they follow along with the four Buckley brothers and the trouble and mischief they find themselves in. The Christmas Project provides a visual continuation of these adventures.
Fun little gimmicks such as the boys naming their dog Farting and Mrs. Buckley really wanting their fifth child to be a girl after four boys are both clever and realistic. The idea of picking a family to “Elve” is also a clever idea. It works very much like a Secret Santa and this is a good concept to teach to children and perhaps a tradition to even start with one’s own family. The acting, overall, was up to par, though some of the younger actors need just a bit more training to make their roles even more convincing for the viewers. Jacob Buster has acted in a dozen other children’s films and TV shows and is perhaps the strongest of the children actors. His skills in acting are developing and it shows in his lead role as Matthew Buckley.
For older viewers, The Christmas Project may seem more like a family movie that takes place during Christmas rather than a Christmas movie about family. It also may seem like it is trying to be the next A Christmas Story. With a reminiscing voiceover of a past Christmas, overcoming a ruthless bully, the children eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Christmas catalog… seems very much like a very similar premise. However, this movie does stand well on its own and has many memorable moments. One such moment is during one of the Buckley’s “Elving” expeditions and Mrs. Buckley gets to go with her boys. She is so touched by what her boys do that it really opens up her boys’ eyes to see the kindness they are sharing with their so-called “enemies.”
Just in time for the 2016 Christmas season, The Christmas Project is an excellent addition to family Christmas movie collections. It provides the fun gimmicks younger viewers will enjoy while also teaching valuable lessons older viewers will appreciate. With the film taking place in 1986, it shows the children not distracted by technology, but rather anticipating the Christmas catalog to see what toys they would like to ask for while also creating gifts to give to the family they are “Elving.” Perhaps this can help teach younger minds that the benefits of giving are so much better than those of receiving and to become the peacekeeper rather than the bully. Before the wonderful feast Thanksgiving will bring, families should watch The Christmas Project so that they may create their own traditions to help others this holiday season.