One Magic Christmas

 
'80s Christmas movie has depressing, intense scenes.
  • Review Date: October 1, 2013
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In a strange way, the mother of a family learns to believe in Christmas again.

Positive role models

In spite of a string of bad luck, Jack remains optimistic and is still a believer in the Christmas spirit. His wife, Ginny, must learn to believe in the Christmas spirit again for it to return to her family.

Violence

A man is shot and killed during a bank robbery. Two children are kidnapped in an ensuing car chase that culminates in the vehicle careening off a bridge and into a river.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Coca-Cola cans, Alpha-Bits cereal boxes, and boxes of various Amway products are shown throughout the movie.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that One Magic Christmas, while ultimately a story of the importance of believing in the Christmas spirit, has many scenes that could be difficult for younger and more sensitive viewers. During a bank robbery, a father is shot and killed, and, in a later scene, the mother sits down her two children to explain to them that their father has passed away and will not be coming home. Also, these two children are kidnapped by the bank robber, who takes them on an extended car chase culminating in the vehicle spinning out of control, falling off a bridge, and causing the kids to nearly drown. These intense scenes are intended to make a mother who has lost all faith and love for Christmas believe again. Although it's doubtful that "believe in Christmas again, and nobody gets hurt!" was the intended message of the movie, this is the overall takeaway. Families looking for a cheerier holiday experience should look elsewhere.

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What's the story?

Ginny Grainger (Mary Steenburgen) no longer has a trace of Christmas spirit, and with good reason: Her boss at the grocery store is an overbearing jerk, her husband lost his job last summer and can't find work anywhere, and they're being kicked out of their house by the end of the month. Through an angel named Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton), Ginny learns that it could be much worse, especially when you don't believe in the spirit of Christmas. When her Christmas spirit vanishes after one-too-many difficulties, the Christmas lights in the neighborhood shut off, her husband is shot while at the bank by an impoverished man Ginny had ignored at the gas station, and the man kidnaps her two children and nearly drowns them after driving them off a bridge in trying to get away from the police. But if Ginny can somehow learn to believe in Christmas, and to believe that she is the master of her fate, she can learn that simple goodness, kindness, and consideration go a long way to avert the evils of the world.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

With a story somewhat similar to It's a Wonderful Life, ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS makes the low points even lower, as Mary Steenburgen's character must endure the shooting death of her husband by a bank robber, her children being kidnapped and nearly killed by the bank robber, and then telling her kids that their father has died. This is all because she didn't give the future bank robber any money in an earlier scene at a gas station when he tried to sell his beat-up car to the mechanic.

Although this movie does its best to show the many difficulties families and individuals who are struggling financially face during the holidays, the dark moments are too dark, and the ending is a bit too neat and tidy, even by Hollywood standards. Families looking for more lighthearted holiday fare should look elsewhere.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Christmas movies. What similarities and differences do you see between this and other Christmas movies?

  • How are the financial difficulties the Graingers face presented in the movie? How accurately does this reflect the realities of working families who have fallen on trying financial times during the holiday season?

  • In what ways did the movie seem dated? How would you remake it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 25, 1985
DVD release date:September 7, 2004
Cast:Arthur Hill, Harry Dean Stanton, Mary Steenburgen
Director:Phillip Borsos
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Holidays
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of One Magic Christmas was written by

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Quality

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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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