It’s a Christmas miracle! A faith-based, family friendly holiday film that doesn’t make you want to drown yourself in a vat full of eggnog. Hallelujah!
Admittedly, it’s a bit strange for me to curate Christmas material for this site. I’m Jewish, for one. Beyond that, I have a strong aversion to overly sentimental things. There’s a difference between something being Capraesque and diabetes inducing.
Out for Delivery from writer/director Ethan Milner and produced by the Alabamian Shades Mountain Baptist Church manages, for the most part, to sidestep the clichés. In other words, this isn’t some horrible Kirk Cameron joint. Rather, it’s an insanely polished and well-acted fable about some good, yet misguided people learning some moral lessons just in time for Christmas. A little pat? In concept, maybe. But, the dialogue is smart and the characters are self-aware enough that it never becomes a Hallmark movie slog through saccharinity and ugly Christmas sweaters. It also helps that the production values are just so damn polished. Director Milner really pulls out all the stops here, employing a flurry of impressive techniques: kinetic montages, fluid dolly shots, and creative cutaways keep the visuals moving in interesting ways.
Milner recognizes the stigma that comes with most church media: it’s usually overly didactic and clunky.
As he relates to Short of the Week:
“I feel like Church media, while being well-meaning, often gets it really wrong. Film isn’t a great medium for preaching a message, but that’s so often what we try to make it do. But movies are great at forcing us to be empathetic, and to ask or provoke a question. My goal with this movie was to make something entertaining, light-hearted, and that asked the question of ‘what are you valuing at Christmas?l
The film’s heist angle provides a fresh, grounded take on the old How the Grinch Stole Christmas storyline. And, thankfully, the film never breaks down into obvert moralizing or preaching. There’s not even a sermon title card (the hard sell comes in this separate companion video). Is it predictable? Yeah. Is it a bit simplistic in its view of the world? Sure. But, damn, it’s just eminently watchable, especially at this time of year. Considering its prodigious length, I was never bored. More importantly, it managed to warm my cynical, cold heart. Major kudos to actress, Hannah Alligood: her portrayal of the young Kat is precocious, but it’s never unrealistic or overwritten.
Beyond that, though, it’s just nice to see a Xmas short that isn’t trying to subvert the genre into something twisted and dark. When it comes to Christmas films, we’ve seen far too many that wink at the spirit of the holiday (think horror…think dark comedy….think ironic documentary), rather than earnestly embracing its warm tenants. So, with Christmas literally a few days away, Out for Delivery makes for perfect seasonal viewing. Grab some cocoa, your snuggie, and watch with your family. A Christian short film you won’t need to cringe-watch your way through? God bless us everyone, indeed!