Christmas in Canaan (2009)
Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Billy Ray Cyrus, Ben Cotton, Emily Tennant, Jacob Blair, Matt Ward
Director: Neill Fearnley
Release Date: 12 December 2009
Length: 96 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3/5 stars
“In the rising heat of the Civil Rights Movement, Daniel Burton a widowed farmer struggling to make ends meet, forces his young son, DJ, who has begun to show racist tendencies, to spend time with his black classmate, Rodney, leading to an unexpected friendship. As the years pass and racial tensions in their town build, an unforgettable Christmas will teach the boys the importance of hope and the true meaning of family. Based on a novel co-written by Kenny Roger. Stars Billy Ray Cyrus, Zak Ludwig, and Jaishon Fisher.” — Hallmark.com
This made-for-TV movie is your typical uplifting Christmas fare, but it was still enjoyable. The two lead men (when they are playing the adult roles – not the beginning where they are kids!) are super cute and have nice, hard bodies so the women in the audience will enjoy it. No one actor particularly stood out (good or bad), but everyone was able to deliver a nice, understated performance that made the movie believable. The movie is fairly slow paced and not a lot happens, but there are a few teary-eyed moments when the family members show how much they love each other by giving everything that they have, and, since they are pretty poor, this means dreams, hopes, wishes, love and support. I love that the family was very tightly knitted and that they gave all that they could for each other. Very rarely did you hear them complaining of chores or of being poor or of being given a short stick in this life and it was nice to have a movie without the whining.
I appreciate the fact that the director and writer were able to show a black boy being adopted into a white family and taken in without too much fuss. I like to think that many of us in the same situation would do likewise, but I know that most of us wouldn’t. This was a nice juxtaposition to the beginning of the film, where the lead white boy was very prejudiced. He learned, regardless of your skin color, we all think and feel and learn the same. This movie could be a great holiday addition to families with young children to help them realize that, deep down, we are all the same.
I was a little bit surprised at the direction the film took at the end, but I understand why they presented it the way they did. They gave the viewers closure and also help us remember that most of us know how to choose between the good and the bad – it is choosing between the good and the good that is so difficult. If you have time to watch this movie next year, and I am sure that it will be on Hallmark again, I recommend that you take a few hours and enjoy a slice of our past when blacks were still struggling with voter registration, small towns were barely breaking even with their small harvests, and families could still enjoy a wonderful Christmas with very few real gifts to give.
This move is very clean and appropriate for anyone to watch. There is no swearing, no nudity, no sex, but there is a little bit of violence. A few of the whites light a tent on fire where the blacks are trying to hold a meeting and one little boy gets injured pretty badly. There is also a scene where the two boys find a dog who has been shot. The two lead boys trade insults at the beginning of the film, but the name calling is pretty tame and serves a purpose in the story. I think that older generations will particularly enjoy this movie, while some younger children and teens may get too inpatient with the slower-paced plot line, but everyone could sit down as a family and watch this movie together.