Release Date:  September 2005
Genre:  Animation, Children
Run Time:  60 min.
Creator:  Max Lucado
Publisher:    Tommy Nelson/Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Actors:   Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Melissa Disney, Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey

Fruitcake for Christmas?  Gross!  Only bugs would like that!  Well, these bugs do – and do they ever!  So much so that they forget the real meaning of Christmas, which is all about giving – not getting.  Or is it?

Hermie (Tim Conway) and Wormie (Don Knotts), those lovable caterpillars invented by pastor and inspirational author Max Lucado (“And the Angels Were Silent,” “When God Whispers Your Name”) are back.  Snow covers the ground and the lake is iced over in the garden.  Having been through a long winter, these bugs are hungry, but they’re excited about all that Christmas holds.  So, together with ladybug Lucy (Melissa Disney) and some new friends – if you can call greedy, conniving cockroaches “friends,” that is – Hermie and Wormie embark on yet another new adventure that teaches kids about Christ.

As they put the finishing touches on their decorations, Hermie and Wormie encounter Iggy and Ziggy Cockroaches (Rick Burgess and Bill “Bubba” Bussey), the local millionaires.  With the help of their exhausted employee, Iggy and Ziggy have been gathering food for the winter.  “Food is money,” say the selfish, wealthy pair, as they hurry along, their arms stacked with food, ignoring all the hungry, staring bugs.  Hermie shakes his head at the roaches’ slave-driving selfishness, but doesn’t fret too much.  After all, he and the other bugs have Grannypillar’s delicious Christmas fruitcake to look forward to.  Guarded in the center of town by two centurions, this gigantic cake will soon become the center of the bug’s celebration – and a feast that satisfies their growing hunger.

In the middle of the night, however, the fruitcake is stolen, and there’s only one – well two, actually – bugs that could have taken it.  The cockroaches, to be sure.  But when Hermie and Wormie trek up to cockroach mansion to confront the pair, Iggy and Ziggy just laugh and mock them.  “Innocent until proven guilty,” the caterpillars remind themselves, then set about getting inside the towering manor.  Alas, they fail again and again.  As a consolation, Grannypillar offers some of her fruitcake reserve – which is years old, but which never goes bad, she reminds them.  Yum yum.

As the frustrated bugs chow down, Lucy’s ladybug kids decide to give some cake to Iggy and Ziggy.  They make their way to the mansion, knock on the door, and hand the two bewildered roaches their meager slices.  When the rodents ask why, the children explain that Christmas is about Jesus, God’s son, who came to Earth as a babe, then died for us all – so that we might be free from our sin.  The stupefied Iggy and Ziggy laugh, but listen.  Then the little ladybugs scamper back to the festivities.  They’re hungry, but satisfied that they’ve accomplished a good deed – even if the older bugs are still shaking their heads in wonder.

Will it make a difference?  What do you think?  After all, didn’t Jesus tell us grownups that we need to be like little kids?

“A Fruitcake Christmas” is the fifth episode of Max Lucado’s “Hermie & Friends,” an award-winning video series that was first launched in early 2003 with “Hermie: A Common Caterpillar.”  With sales exceeding the million mark and numerous other “Hermie” books, toys and games, the series has become extremely popular – like everything the likeable Lucado touches.

With its simple, straightforward message, “A Fruitcake Christmas” seems to be primarily aimed at kindergartners and preschoolers.  Like many works of art that seek to convert rather than entertain ( especially for this age group), its plot is extremely simplistic and seems to draw from other sources.  Think “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” meets “A Christmas Carol” meets a Billy Graham crusade.

Unfortunately, while the film’s teaching is wholly biblical, its narrative bypasses countless opportunities to enrich and deepen itself – like explaining why the bugs are all hungry, in the midst of such plenty, or why they’re obsessed with fruitcake, of all things.  Another disappointment is the dialogue.  Occasionally, we get a joke (“I’m just an exoskeleton!”) or a creative allusion (“God bless us, one and all!”), but these are disappointingly few and far between.  A bit of history about Hermie and his friends would also have been helpful, as would more characters like Wormie (who continually moans “fruuuuuuit-cake!”) and the bantering roaches.  Thank goodness for these two, by the way, and their authentic Southern accents.  Hallelujah!  Voiced by the stars of the hit radio show, “The Rick & Bubba Show,” they almost steal this show. 

Nevertheless, like the other “Hermie” episodes – and unlike so many other Christmas films – “A Fruitcake Christmas” has a clear, strong Christian message that will connect easily with kids.  With its beautiful, vivid colors and creative animation, it will likely keep them entertained, as well.  Christmas is not about giving or getting presents, kids will learn.  It’s not about the decorations.  Nor is it about friends or food or even family.  It’s about Jesus Christ and his love for us, which is the best gift of all – at any time of the year.