21 December 2013 | rbsteury
A little cheesy but fun
Each year I search for a Christmas movie with a Christian slant appropriate for the youth in the youth group my wife and I voluntarily lead. We've done all the big ones ("The Nativity Story", "It's a Wonderful LIfe") and some smaller gems ( "The Ultimate Gift" and the wonderful, under-appreciated "Noelle") but other than those we often are desperate for something that is not a completely cheesy Hallmark type movie with a nod towards the Christ story. Last year I used clips from old "ER's" which always had emotional and impact-full Christmas episodes.
This movie is a little cheesy but lots of fun. For me, living in central-western Michigan, it has the allure of being shot in and around Grand Rapids with several local venues being shown. It is also a big plug for the Salvation Army, which is a very deserving organization (and also K- Mart which is, altruistically speaking, less deserving.)
The story revolves around a local, hyper-competitive sports reporter (Will Dalton played a little over-the-top by Bruce Boxleitner) and his family consisting of his spouse and two children (his son Jason is played by Kenton Duty who does a great job.) Antonio Fargas as Melvin Lowell, a Major in the Salvation Army is also very winning.
Will gets in trouble by carelessly but accidentally injuring a ref in his son's high school basketball game when he vociferously protests the ref's decision. This ultimately loses the game for his son, who quits the team in humiliation, and their father-son relationship suffers. In addition the referee presses charges for his (minor) injuries and Bruce must do humiliating (for him) community service by bell ringing at a Salvation Army kettle. Further, because his embarrassingly uncontrolled behavior has gone viral on social media, he loses his anchor spot at his work. There are some very funny developments and under the tutelage of Major Lowell the "go-for-the-win" Bruce begins to realize Christmas means more than who has the best home decorations or even who can raise the most money at his Christmas kettle.
There is also a side story about a Central Michigan University football player who has just won the Heisman trophy. Obviously, this part of the plot is a complete fantasy given the big money and politics involved in who wins the Heisman. Somebody involved in this film is pretty clearly a CMU alum as there are Central Michigan banners up all over the place and nary a Michigan State University or University of Michigan appearance. I am an alum of both MSU and U of M but good for the little guys!
The Christian content is gentle but central to the theme, so those who object to such proselytizing may dislike this film. But the main theme is very humanitarian and charitable, focusing on what Christmas SHOULD be about rather than what it so often is.
Silver Bells was obviously shot on a very low budget and apparently released direct-to-video, and that sometimes shows. But it was indeed filmed during the winter season and the snowy scenes look very real. Some actors deliver their lines more convincingly than others but overall the acting did not make me roll my eyes. For an evening of smiles and basic truths being re-enforced, you could do a lot worse.