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With: Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, Harry Dean Stanton, Arthur Hill, Elisabeth Harnois, Robbie Magwood, Michelle Meyrink, Elias Koteas, Wayne Robson, Jan Rubes, Sarah Polley, Graham Jarvis, Timothy Webber, Joy Thompson-Allen, John Friesen
Written by: Phillip Borsos, Barry Healey, Thomas Meehan
Directed by: Phillip Borsos
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 88
Date: 11/22/1985

One Magic Christmas (1985)

1 Star (out of 4)

Christmas Tears

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I don't know if you can possibly conceive of the depths of despair we're talking about here, but this Disney movie has to be the the most depressing Christmas movie of all time.

The movie stars a miscast Mary Steenburgen as a depressed, poor, suicidal mom at Christmas. Her husband has been out of work since June, and the kids want all kinds of stuff from Santa Claus. She stops just short of telling them to shut up, that Santa doesn't exist and that they're not getting anything. But the husband is getting ready to open a bike shop, so things are maybe looking up.

Only, this other poor, desperate guy also needs some money, so he robs a bank, shoots the husband dead and kidnaps the kids. Harry Dean Stanton plays a Christmas angel who sits around most of the movie, then takes the little girl to see Santa Claus, who's kind of weird. He doesn't "ho ho ho"; he just kind of stares. Santa gives her a letter that Steenburgen sent when she was a little girl to prove that there's a Santa. Then everybody comes back to life and they all have a happy Christmas after all.

The movie is a desperate remake of It's a Wonderful Life, which itself treads on dangerous ground. That movie is depressing for almost two hours, then redeems itself in a marvelous ending that only Frank Capra could pull off. One Magic Christmas is directed by Phillip Borsos, who did The Mean Season. It has a pretty good gritty, muddy look, and the print I saw (on television) looked like a scratched 16mm. Unfortunately, that look is all wrong for a Disney Christmas movie.

I was just sitting there, thinking I needed a dose of Christmas spirit, and this movie made me more depressed than I already was. If you have kids, don't let them see this movie.

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