I’m not a negative person. I like to count my blessings and I thank the Good Lord all the time for the things he has given me. Therefore, you know that when I tell you that you should never, ever watch One Magic Christmas, you will hopefully understand and take those words to heart.
Many of you may not have heard of this film, and there’s a good reason for that. Released in 1985 during the transition over to the Michael Eisner regime, this project was an abysmal failure in all ways – creatively and financially. It opened at less than $3 million dollars and went on to gross barely over $12 million. That’s the financial results. Creative is a whole other ball of wax.
Ostensibly, this is a magical Christmas story about how a mother (Mary Steenburgen) who does not enjoy Christmas is taught about the spirit of Christmas and learns to embrace the season. In truth, it’s a meandering and nearly meaningless collection of scenes that ends up confusing the viewer and nearly killing your Christmas spirit because of its depressing and dark messages.
First of all, we open with Harry Dean Stanton, the famed character actor, sitting in a tree playing a harmonica. If you’ve ever seen any of Stanton’s other roles, you would immediately have cause to be concerned. Here he is playing an angel named Gideon, whose job is to get Steenburgen’s character to learn the true spirit of Christmas. The way his plan unfolds is nonsensical.
After we learn about the family (Dad’s lost his job, Mom works as a clerk at a grocery store, kids believe in Santa along with Dad but Mom doesn’t), Gideon enlists Abbie, the youngest child to help him. He does so by asking her to write a letter to Santa and get her mother to mail it. How this relates to an angel of the Lord, I’m not sure and never did discover.
We’re treated to more misery between Mom and Dad after that, none of which really makes a lot of sense. Finally, things heat up when Dad takes Abbie and her brother to the bank to get some money for Christmas shopping. When Abbie runs across the street to the grocery store to tell her mother, Steenburgen’s character storms out of the store to the bank. She’s just in time to see her husband shot by a bank robber who had been rude to her in the grocery store and at a gas station earlier that day. The robber then bolts the store and steals the car with her kids in it, eventually driving off a bridge and killing them all!
It was at this point I declared this the worst Christmas movie of all time. Heart warming Christmas tales do not usually include the deaths of someone’s entire family. Granted, the angel Gideon immediately fishes the kids out of the water, and they return home safely, but their father is still dead. It was then I got a sense that there was some sort of “It’s A Wonderful Life” thing going on here, and not in a good way.
Even once reunited with her children, Mom is still anti-Christmas. The acting in the scene where she tells the kids about their father’s death is horrific. There is no angst in her voice, no emotion. Nothing about the scene tells you what horror this woman has been through.
The natural next step is, of course, a trip to the North Pole to see Santa. If that didn’t make sense to you reading this, then imagine watching it. Abbie goes to the North Pole because Gideon, who is an ANGEL, says he can’t bring her father back, only Santa can. How? By giving her a letter that her mother had written to Santa when she was a child.
I’m sure you see where this is going. Abbie returns, gives the letter to her mother, who then mails Abbie’s letter to Santa, and things rewind to the day her husband was shot. Mom fixes the issues of the bank robber, and all is well for the family. Which is all well and good for them, but I want my two hours back!
I can honestly say I found no redeeming qualities about this movie. The acting by Stanton and Steenburgen was terrible, and they are both good actors. The music is loud and intrusive, the cinematography is dark and depressing even during the lighter moments and the plot is incomprehensible. If Gideon is an angel, with a direct line to God, why does he need Santa to bring this kid’s father back?
Seriously, never watch this film. So stunningly bad is One Magic Christmas, that I felt the immediate need to watch other Christmas films to cleanse the palate. Do not subject yourself to this pain. I do it so you don’t have to, and that’s the way it should be.
Contributed by: Ryan K. (NDD #137). Ryan is our resident film expert and creator of The Disney Film Project.