- Movie Rating -

One Magic Christmas (1985)

| November 22, 1985

Geez!  One Miserable Christmas.

I’m a fan of Christmas movies.  I have my small collection of holiday movie treasures that pad my season of tinsel and garland, but I’m afraid that One Magic Christmas will not be one of them.  This is a sad, depressing exercise in misery and bad luck that is supposed to be redeemed by a happy ending.

The title and the studio, Walt Disney Pictures, gives you the idea that this is going to be one of those quietly magical little films about a person realizing the true meaning of Christmas.  But what are we to make of this film?  Right off the bat we are thrown into a pile of sorrow and grief from which the movie expects to emerge with a heart-warming message.  I’m not opposed to a little bad luck but what is piled on the characters in this movie is going to take more than Christmas cheer.

Mary Steenburgen plays Ginny Grainger who rejects Christmas after her husband loses his job and since their home is owned by the company, they have to be out by New Year’s Day.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, the mean old boss brings people over to the house so they can see their new home.  Ginny’s husband then goes to the bank to draw out the family savings and is shot dead when the bank is robbed.  The guy who pulls the holdup steals his car with the kids in the back seat, crashes through a bridge railing killing him and the two kids.  Soon after, incredibly, we are introduced to Ginny’s guardian angel who must have been working off a stupor in Bora Bora.

The angel, named Gideon is played by the always reliable Harry Dean Stanton who seems to arrive too late to help Ginny whose faith in Christmas has been tarnished by all of the above.  Actually, this woman wouldn’t be in a deep slump, she would perhaps have a nervous breakdown.

This is quite a heavy load to lob on a movie character who is suppose to have a redemptive arc and a lot to ask of an audience who is suppose to be attending this movie as a heart-warming holiday treat.  Unemployment?  Foreclosure?  Robbery?  Kidnapping?  Child death?  Geez!  I can see that the obvious inspiration here was It’s a Wonderful Life but George Bailey only had to deal with a missing $8,000.  No one gunned down his family on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, Gideon goes to great lengths to bring her around, up to and including an unhealthy development that eventually reunites her with her dead family.  With the help of Santa and Gideon, the movie brings about her faith in Christmas and gives us a happy ending, but boy, do we have to roll in the holiday mud to get there.  This is the saddest Christmas movie I’ve ever seen and I can’t say that the resurrection at the end was any salvation.

Why did the movie have to go this way?  Sure, lots of people have money problems at Christmas, but why make it such a base series of human misery?  Really, I think just the father losing his job would be enough.  We probably didn’t need the kidnapping.  Geez!

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama