Christmas Movies II

film 2 of 25

One Magic Christmas

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 26, 2015

This is kind of like The Great Mouse Detective or Rescuers Down Under.  Something good is starting to happen in Disneyland, ca. 1985, but they’re not quite there yet. Encouraging, though. Could be the Canadian components. (Look closely. Those with eyes to see, let them see…)

Anyway, One Magic Christmas is an honourable updating/commercialization of the Scrooge myth, in which a disappointed pilgrim is dragged through a therapeutic round of tribulation on the way to being wrapped in the arms of redeeming love. (Also another entry in the annals of contemporary film’s crafty/cowardly substitution of Santa Claus for Jesus.) And some tribulation! Protagonist Ginny Grainger’s travails are so punitive as to be practically sadistic. Writer-director Phillip Borsos sure sweetens the restorations, mind you, especially with all of those little Molly Monahan (a very young Sarah Polley) grace notes that we encounter on the way.

In fact, in some small measure, One Magic Christmas is a bit like Carl Dreyer’s magisterial masterpiece, Ordet (Denmark, 1955). The distribution and heft of its various small miracles—empathy, kindness, resiliency, community—almost make the big miracle unnecessary. (Let’s not get carried away, mind; it’s a bit like Dreyer…) The husband (Gary Basaraba) is a terrific creation, embodying a virtue both plausible and interesting. The children are exceptionally beautiful. The North Pole is completely successful, especially the little mythological variation that they fashion with those elves. Finally, Harry Dean Stanton contributes one of film history’s strangest performances as one of film history’s strangest angels. Still, definitely, worth a watch!