One Magic Christmas (1985)
Directed by Philip Borsos
Written by Thomas Meehan
Starring Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, and Harry Dean Stanton
Disney's One Magic Christmasis not for sissies or small children. I took my daughter to see it when she was four, and, while I don't think it scarred her too much, I think she was a tad young for this one. It was rated G, but this movie is way too heavy for that rating. PG-13 is about right. But dark as it is, I love it. The movie centers on Ginny Grainger, played by Mary Steenburger, a put-upon woman who has lost her Christmas spirit, a common enough theme in Christmas movies. Her husband (Gary Basaraba), laid off back in June, is unable to find a new job. Ginny works as a cashier at the local supermarket, where her grinchy boss singles her out for his managerial abuses. There's no money for Christmas, and, because the house is a company house, they must be out by January 1. So Ginny spends her days off packing, while hubby's down in the basement working on bicycles for the neighborhood kids for Christmas. As if all of that isn't enough, it's only been a couple of years since her father died. Who can blame her for not having Christmas spirit?
But Christmas spirit she must have. Her daughter, Abbie, who still believes in Santa, is the driving force here. She is helped by the angel Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton), who was a cowboy in his human days. He is the creepiest angel I've ever seen, and I can't believe Abbie isn't afraid of him, but maybe he gives off some kind of angel vibe that only animals and small children can sense. Abbie and Gideon travel to the North Pole to solicit Santa's help. Jan Rubes plays Santa, and he is the quintessential Santa. He looks just like you'd expect Santa to look right down to the rich red sweater and coat. He speaks with a European accent, but he's not just plain, old St. Nicholas. Clearly he is God. And as such, he is instrumental in producing the necessary Christmas miracle. On her way to recovering her Christmas spirit, Ginny suffers horrible loses; Ebenezer Scrooge and George Baily don't suffer a tenth the agony that poor Ginny Grainger does. Still, Ginny's got to learn: This is a Disney movie, and Christmas spirit is not optional.
Five more must-see Christmas movies:
- Elf(2003). Will Ferrell is hilarious as Buddy, a human raised with elves who goes to New York to find his real father.
- The House Without a Christmas Tree(1972). In 1940s Nebraska, ten-year-old Addie wants only one thing for Christmas: a tree. But her father, played by Jason Robards, is still grieving for the wife who died giving Addie life and refuses to allow a tree in his house.
- Fitzwilly(1967). Dick Van Dyke is Fitzwilly, the devoted head servant of an eccentric philanthropist, who has given away her entire fortune. To support her and her household, Fitzwilly has resorted to theft.
- The Lemon Drop Kid(1951). In another criminal Christmas movie, Bob Hope is a con man who owes big money to a gangster, creates a fake charity, and enlists his gang to pose as Santas to raise the money by Christmas.
- A Christmas Carolwith Alastair Sim (1951). The definitive Christmas Carol.