I had a vague recollection of a movie from the 1980s where some unfortunate, tragic events occur and show a family what the Christmas spirit is really about, tugging at the back of my memory. So, I searched by various terms (the only other thing I could remember was “shooting in a bank robbery”) and discovered the film was One Magical Christmas. Given that I’m a Christmas film junkie, and we’re doing a sixteen-film Christmas Film Eliminator at Hollywood Jesus, I used the wonders of Amazon Prime and sat down to watch the film thirty years later.
Mary Steenburgen plays the matriarch of Grainger household, burdened by an out-of-work husband (Gary Basaraba), two children, a terrible job, and a growing stack of bills. But unlike some who find the glass half-full, or see the silver lining, Ginny Grainger is angry at the world. Especially at Christmastime.
But Grainger’s daughter Abbie (Elisabeth Harnois) believes – and she ends up joining forces with an angel (Harry Dean Stanton) and Santa (Jan Rubes) to right wrongs and to bring her mother some Christmas cheer. It’s interesting that it combines the heavenly and the North Pole-y to make it work. [That’s Disney for you.] And the plot holes are at times wide enough to roll through lying down. But it still works in that sacred place that is Christmas movies.
Grainger is saved, and her husband is … healed? fixed? resurrected? because of faith. Faith in Santa, faith in the angel, faith in love or Christmas or something that brings them to the place and time where miracles happen and love occurs. Isn’t that what we really want from Christmas? We don’t have to understand it- heck, we put aside the need to get how reindeer or sleighs fly, how many animals were in the stabled when Jesus was born, if someone upstairs or in the North Pole or in heaven, really knows if we’re naughty or nice, because internally, we want to believe.
We know we need faith- even when we’re not sure what we should have faith in. And Christmas films seem to point faintly to something miraculous and spiritual and heavenly. Because, to paraphrase the Lion in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, “there’s an older, deeper magic still.”