The Heart of Christmas
by Phil Boatwright

Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It, Full House), Jeanne Neilson (Faith Like Potatoes), Eric Beck, Anita Renfroe, Grammy® nominated artist Matthew West, Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping), Kelsey Marie Kingsbury, Karl T. Wright, Sophia Sinise, Erin Bethea (Fireproof), with Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood) and George Newbern (Father of the Bride, Justice League). Gary Wheeler is the director. Lance Dreesen wrote the script.

FILM SYNOPSIS: The Heart of Christmas is based on a true story that made national headlines when a community in Washington, Illinois, decorated their houses for Christmas several weeks early in honor of a little boy battling a rare form of leukemia. The movie unfolds as the Locke family’s grief is eased by the love and support of their community and the life-changing legacy their son Dax Locke left behind, which reminds us all to cherish every moment.

The Heart of Christmas illustrates the beauty and the power of people uniting to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Brad Siegel, vice chairman, GMC. “This is a story about how caring hearts and love can uplift a family and a community in the darkest time. It is the kind of story that we like to share with our viewers,” he continued.

PREVIEW REVIEW: This is a gloomy one, folks. A child is sick with cancer throughout and several moms hug all the time, trying to cope with the stress and worry of possibly losing their children to disease. That’s not to dismiss the value of the work done at St. Jude’s, nor to diminish the need to spotlight the anguish these families go through. It is, however, a movie, not a documentary, and the filmmakers needed to handle the subject matter a little less heavy-handed. And the final product shouldn’t just be a sly commercial for St. Jude’s Hospital.

The Heart of Christmas does remind us to keep ailing families not just in our prayers, but in our deeds. We need to look after one another. The film makes this clear. What’s more, Christ is centered in the lives of the leads. Maybe, despite my unease with how the subject matter was handled, perhaps the message will bring families closer together.

But here is the main problem with the production – the little boy. At the end of the film, we see the real-life people and it is amazing how close the producers have come to casting look-a-likes. Sadly, when it came to casting the ailing child, and I want to be charitable here, their choice was questionable. In real life, little Dax Locke – and you’ll see this in the final snapshots of the real family – was a charmer, he tugs at your heart, truly, he was a little angel. This, the little actor was unable to convey.

Let me offer a DVD alternative: Ponette (1997). French with subtitles. After the death of her mother, a child attempts to understand where her mother is and believes if she can get close enough to God, He will send the mother back. Sometimes difficult to view, as we are frustrated that we cannot relieve her sadness, but it is an insightful look at the world of children, and contains an uplifting ending. The performances of the three lead children are simply splendid. There’s a positive portrayal of a Christian woman who relates the story of Christ to this little one. Four-year-old Victoire Thivisol won the 1996 Venice Film Festival Best Actress that year. How they got such a dynamic, moving performance out of this cherub is beyond me, but even if she never does another thing, this little girl has greatly contributed to the world of art. Not rated (3 or 4 obscenities, but I caught no misuse of God's name; adult subject matter, as the loss of a parent and subsequent unhappy searching for her mother may disturb children).