NOW ON TUBI! Last night, during the Christmas Eve sermon, the pastor observed that for most of us, Christmas is marked as either a time of great joy or profound grief. In Bennet De Brabandere’s The Christmas Spirit, our protagonist must go through extreme measures to move beyond grief to find his joy…with the help of a lucha libre Christmas spirit.
Many years ago, a young Cole (Jordan Kronis) was more interested in playing video games than helping his little sister put up the Christmas lights. While trying to string lights on the roof, his sister accidentally hung herself right outside Cole’s bedroom window. While at the funeral, Cole is haunted by the previously mentioned lucha Christmas spirit (Nicolas Grimes), who is banished to haunt Cole until he can find forgiveness for the death of his sister.
Cut to today, Cole (Zion Forrest Lee) is a grown-a*s man who has made nothing of his life. The guilt of his past and his Christmas specter follow him everywhere. Cursed to follow Cole for eternity, the Spirit insists that Cole will find forgiveness this year.
The Spirit discovers a social media influencer, Maggie (Matia Jackett), whose father just walked out on the family before Christmas after discovering her mother cheated on him with Maggie’s piano teacher. Maggie looks just like Cole’s sister, and she’d made the perfect surrogate for forgiveness.
The plan is simple. Kidnap Maggie and safely wrap and hoist her in the air with Christmas lights. Cole will save her life and be forgiven. Makes perfect sense. The problem is figuring out a way to kidnap Maggie and convince her to go along with the plan.
“Kidnap Maggie and safely wrap her in Christmas lights and hoist her in the air. Cole will save her life…”
Of course, convincing Maggie is the easy part. Keeping the plan hidden from Maggie’s best friend, Gina (Eman Ayaz), a local gang of street thugs out for revenge against Cole, and two inept police officers investigating Maggie’s kidnapping will make finding forgiveness for the Holidays not so easy.
If you’re looking for a heartwarming Christmas story, you won’t find it in The Christmas Spirit. Oh, quite the opposite. De Brabandere’s take is the anti-Christmas story, which is where the film finds its “charm.” While trying to make a loose attempt at feeling like a Christmas story in the end, The Christmas Spirit is essentially a gritty tale of a crazy man who talks to a ghosts that drives him to kidnap a Christmas grinch in Maggie, who sort of likes the idea of being kidnapped…as long as it’s filmed for her social media account.
I used the word “charm,” but creepy is the better term. As Cole, Zion Forrest Lee has the most complicated character to play. Deep down, he wants to resolve his past, and he’s unsure how far he should trust the Spirit as he is more determined than ever to ditch Cole and move on. Zion finds enough sympathy for Cole that we kind of want to root him on.
Matia Jackett is a mixed bag of naive and street-smart. She’s on to Cole’s plan and wants to see how far he can push his scam before bailing on him to disastrous results. The street gang and inept cops are there for comic relief and some clever schtick to propel the plot.
As stated before, The Christmas Spirit is not your typical Christmas tale. Your enjoyment of the film will be based solely on how much you buy into this plot. It’s crazy and goes off into some over-the-top violent situations. If you’re in that niche audience who embraces the pessimism and humbug of the Christmas season, give The Christmas Spirit a shot.
"…the anti-Christmas story..."