Dec 5, 2014

Review: One Magic Christmas (1985)

I've been stuck watching some pretty bad Christmas movies these past few days. Not that I'm complaining. After all, I expected them to be bad. It was no surprise to me when The Christmas Shoes and An All Dogs Christmas Carol didn't end up being Christmas classics. It's all in good fun anyway. I still needed a good movie to break up the pattern though and I hoped that One Magic Christmas would be just what the doctor ordered.

Produced by Disney, OMC seems so far away from the kind of movies that Disney makes now. It seems like everything they release has to be that next billion dollar movie at the box office. While their movies are still good for families, One Magic Christmas really fits the bill a lot better if you ask me. It's about a regular family trying to make ends meet during the Christmas holidays which is a very real concern for families all around the world.


Genre: family, fantasy
Directed by: Phillip Borsos
Produced by: Peter O'Brian, Phillip Borsos, Michael MacDonald
Written by: Thomas Meehan
Music by: Michael Conway Baker
Running time: 89 minutes
Production company: Walt Disney Pictures, Silver Screen Partners II, Téléfilm Canada, etc.
Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution Company, National Broadcasting Company, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, etc.
Country: United States, Canada
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $13,677,222 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, Harry Dean Stanton, Elisabeth Harnois, Arthur Hill, Robbie Magwood, Michelle Meyrink, Elias Koteas, Wayne Robson, Jan Rubes, Sarah Polley, Graham Jarvis, Timothy Webber, Joy Thompson, John Friesen, Julie Beaulieu, Rita Tuckett



Ginny Grainger (Mary Steenburgen) works as a cashier, supporting her unemployed husband Jack (Gary Basaraba) and two children Abbie (Elisabeth Harnois) and Cal (Robbie Magwood). Her children and husband are excited for Christmas, but Ginny can't seem to find anything to be joyful about. Money is too tight and she begins to even question what she's living for. Definitely not the grocery store she's working in.


One Magic Christmas is just as grim as the synopsis makes it out to be. To be honest I was pretty shocked that Disney would even put out a movie like this. 1985 was a different time though and I actually like what's being addressed here. Ginny has a point in regards to Jack's attempts at splurging on their kids in that they just can't afford to. Jack also dreams of opening up his own bike shop, but that would wipe out his family's meager savings.

As sad and un-Christmas as it sounds, it's hard to argue against Ginny in wanting to limit their spending at Christmas. She even has to go work on Christmas Eve or else her boss will fire her. She tragically doesn't even ever say "Merry Christmas" anymore because she believes that people don't even mean it when they say it. It's a good thing Gideon the angel (Harry Dean Stanton) has been sent on a mission to bring back the Christmas spirit into Ginny's heart.

Speaking of Harry Dean Stanton, he's great in his angelic role. He's kind of like some kind of Western/cowboy angel, always with a hat and playing the harmonica. It's an unexpectedly nice fit with the snowy setting. There are a few times that Gideon is actually kind of creepy, such as when he talks to Abbie, Cal and a friend while they're watching some other kids play hockey. Don't talk to strangers and all that, you know? Same thing goes for when he approaches Ginny for the first time late at night. I'm not sure if Borsos was going for creepy, but he goes into that territory a couple of times.

Mary Steenburgen has been a bit of an inside joke with my girlfriend and I for no particular reason, but she's perfectly cast here. She puts on a grouchy and tired air as Ginny and it feels very natural. She's maybe a bit unsteady during a few early scenes, but she gets better as time goes on. I also want to outline how good child actress Elisabeth Harnois is as Abbie. She's very cute and manages to stay away from being annoying. Her and Robbie Magwood also get some great kid lines too that are just precious.

Like Mary Steenburgen's performance, the whole movies actually gets better as time goes on. It also gets even grimmer and quite frankly impossibly depressing. (Spoilers) You have to point the finger at Jack for being so dumb though. He actually leaves his children in a double-parked car with the keys still in the ignition while he goes to the bank. You have to remember that it was a different time and people used to leave their front doors unlocked right? They also live in a pretty small town which usually is relatively safe from crime compared to bigger cities. (End Spoilers)

Once we get to the more magical aspects of One Magic Christmas, it's impossible not to be caught up in it. We get to see the North Pole which features a great set for Santa's workshop and of course we get to see the big man in red himself. Jan Rubes is a more traditional Santa Claus and I love it. His Santa Claus performance is easily one of my favourites of all the Santas I've ever seen in movies.

One Magic Christmas wouldn't be made in this day and age. It would be considered too intense for children and it descends into some pretty dark territory. That's a shame if you ask me because it's a magical film. Instead of some half-assed conflict that would be deemed family friendly, OMC is refreshingly real. It balances that with just the right amount of magic. (Spoilers) I got really swept up in the story and despite an extremely sweet happy ending, it goes about it in the right way. (End SpoilersOne Magic Christmas is a wonderful Christmas story with the right approach and the right people in key roles. 



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