One Magic Christmas (1985) Poster

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This movie is very special to me. It's a part of my childhood. I love it so much.
Amy20815 April 2005
When One Magic Christmas came out in 1985 on TV, my mom recorded it on to a VHS tape. We had this beat up, bad copy of the movie. You had to turn the volume up all the way in order to hear anything, still this movie was amazing to me. Mary Steenbergen doesn't believe in Christmas or Santa. She is such a scrooge about the season, that not even her kids' excitement could change the way she feels. With an angels' help, her daughter Abby, tries to get her into the spirit. It's full of magic, adventure, enchantment, and many lessons learned. One Magic Christmas is funny, dramatic, and wholesome. It's one of those movies that you truly can watch with your whole family, and everyone will like it. My sister and I loved it so much when we were kids that we used to watch it year round. I love this movie very much. They just recently re-released it on DVD, so now I have a good copy of the movie that has meant so much to me growing up. I still say that it's one of my all time favorite movies!!!!
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One of the best (and most underrated) Christmas movies ever!
filmmakker25 December 2005
One Magic Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. While I don't remember seeing it in the theater (apparantly I did, but I had just turned 3 years old), I watched our videotaped copy (recorded off of the Disney Channel circa 1986) so many times as a little girl(regardless of the season), the first few minutes of the tape literally wore out, filling with snow and static. This, and the fact that I had every line memorized, has become something of Christmas Lore in my family. Tonight (Christmas 2005), I watched the film again with my parents and sister for the first time in many years, and was stuck by several things: first, how well the film has held up over the last twenty-years; second, how special and unique the message is from "traditional" family holiday movies that were made in the 80s and 90s; and third, how I still remember many of the lines of dialog -- they are indelibly etched into my brain after literally hundreds of viewings.

"One Magic Christmas" is sort of an alternate take on "It's a Wonderful Life" -- centering around a family who has fallen on hard times with a mother who never says "Merry Christmas" and is generally devoid of any holiday sentiment altogether. Her daughter Abbie, together with the Christmas Angel Gideon, embark on a plan to help her re-find the Christmas spirit.

Mary Steenburgen is fantastic as the loving, but icy mother. Her performance is very real -- she is both funny and dramatic, and her character is developed in a way that most family films omit. Harry Dean Stanton is perfect as Gideon, the angel - calming and knowing. You believe he is who he says he is. The child actors in the film are equally fantastic. In a family film, the kids can either make it or break it. These children act like real kids -- they aren't trying to be cute for the camera (although they really are adorable -- and this is coming from someone who dislikes most children on TV/movies) and they hold their own with their adult counterparts with ease. The little girl that plays Abbie is effortless in her portrayal of a girl with an non-wavering belief in Santa Clause.

Honestly, one of the things I think that I like best about this film is how real it seems. Considering magic and faith are primary elements of the story - this really says something. The acting is so good, the dialog believable, that the more mystical situations do not seem out of bounds. The film also delves into darker, more realistic themes than you get in most family fare. This is really exceptional, especially considering this was a Disney picture. The ultimate message of the film is heartening and poignant - even for those of us who are grown and long-since stopped believing in Santa and magic.

This is one of those movies that just feels good to watch. I can honestly say, even if this film didn't have the sentimental value it does for me, I would still recommend it as an excellent Christmas movie.
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Best contemporary Christmas movie!
kmjones18 December 2004
I've been watching this movie every Christmas since it first appeared on CBC in the '80s, and I have to say, I spend most of the movie misty-eyed. In this familiar story of a woman who has lost the Christmas spirit and rediscovers it through being shown how fortunate she is, there are several excellent performances

and a strong feeling of magic throughout.

Mary Steenburgen, who plays Ginnie Grainger, the woman who has lost the

Christmas spirit, undergoes an amazing transformation and some of the most

heart-wrenching moments I've seen on film. Harry Dean Stanton, as the angel

Gideon, plays his part with sensitivity, and Gary Basaraba is excellent as Jack, Ginnie's husband. Abbie, the six-year old daughter of the main character, steals the show, however. She never seems to be acting, and carries the innocence of childhood and the magic of Christmas with her. Keep an eye out for a very

young Sarah Polley as Molly Monaghan, and veteran Canadian actor Jan

Rubes as the best Santa Claus on film to date, if only for his amazing costume.

Keep a box of tissues on hand when you watch this movie! It demonstrates that a movie can be magical without overwhelming special effects, and that a

Christmas movie can be sentimental without being schmaltzy.
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A strange and depressing spin on Christmas
gloomyrival12 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, let me say that this is not the movie for people looking to watch something spirited and joyous for the holidays. This movie is cold, brutal, and just downright depressing. Mary Steenburgen plays a grinchy mom who is down on Christmas because her husband has lost his job, they are losing their house, can't buy Christmas presents for the kids, etc. You get the idea, happy stuff for the holidays. So along comes Harry Dean Stanton as Gideon the Christmas angel, who in his dark hat and long overcoat comes off more like a pedophile who hangs around children all day observing them. What better way to instill the spirit of Christmas in Mary Steenburgen than to kill off her family and then offer to bring them back if she believes in Christmas again. Santa Claus is a blackmailer and his Christmas workshop looks more like a haven for refugee Nazis on the lam. The movie lays everything on so thick that you don't care about the happy ending when it comes because the rest of the movie is so bitter and unbelievable. I'm sure this film wanted to be something Capra-like, but it left out the joy and sentiment on what a holiday film should be.
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Hands down best Christmas movie of all time
MovieBuff2512 December 2005
I first saw this movie shortly after it came out. It was back in the mid 80's. I remember watching it and loving it and telling my Mom about it. We've watched it almost every year since. Its kind of a sad story in a way but its so good. I can't explain why i like it so much. It just warms your heart. Harry Dean Stanton does a great job as Gideon, the Christmas Angel and Mary Steenburgen as the Mom who doesn't believe in Christmas is great. The best performance is Jan Rubes as Santa Claus. He is in my opinion the best interpretation of Santa Claus I've ever seen. I recommend that everyone watch this movie, its been 20 years and I'm still enjoying watching it every year. It isn't Christmas for me until I've watched this movie.
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Bittersweet holiday fantasy. Not for tots.
jckruize13 November 2001
Exquisitely made holiday fable with a decidedly dark edge, not unlike "It's a Wonderful Life" in tone. Mary Steenburgen is very convincing as a woman whose heart has been hardened by life's harsh realities. Christmas has become an empty ritual to her and it takes a highly unusual angel named Gideon (played by a softspoken Harry Dean Stanton in a long cattleman's duster) to make her see the light. Her conversion requires some grim but realistic machinations by Gideon, as well as the simple and unquestioning faith of her optimistic husband and children. But the result is an emotionally powerful finale that is honestly earned, not the easy tearjerking of lesser films.

Special mention should be made of the two terrific child actors who play Steenburgen's kids, especially Elizabeth Harnois as the youngest, Abbie, whose unsticky line readings are a treat. Character actor Jan Rubes makes a wonderful, matter-of-fact Santa Claus. The production is further enhanced by Frank Tidy's meticulous cinematography, some imaginative art direction, particularly in Santa's toy shop, and a lovely score by Michael Conway Baker. Thomas Meehan's scenario delves into some dark territory for a genre that is all too often treacly instead of real, but its clear antecedents are treasures such as "A Christmas Carol" and the aforementioned Capra classic. A word of caution, however: this is not recommended for very young children. But for 8 and above, and adults, it's a Christmas tale that may well become a perennial in your house, as it is in mine.
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do not watch this if you are depressed--it'll only make it worse
MartinHafer18 December 2005
I thought this was one of the most depressing holiday movies I have ever seen--the others being THE Christmas WIFE and JACK FROST. All three movies are about death. If you LIKE being thoroughly depressed, then by all means watch this film or any of the others. In this film, the acting is good and some of the scenery (apart when people are dying) is lovely. But, I am worried that a clinically depressed person might accidentally see the film and do themselves in! Despite a "happily ever after" ending, the major portion of this film is one awful disaster following another. And, for some crazy reason, I DON'T WANT TO BE DEPRESSED when I watch a Christmas movie (I know this sounds crazy folks--after all, isn't bawling your eyes out and feeling miserable what the holidays are all about anyway?).

For a more uplifting viewing experience, try the forgotten HOUSE WITHOUT A Christmas TREE, George C. Scott's Christmas CAROL or A Christmas STORY instead--unless of course you like being miserable.
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a spiritless person who's 2nd chance to make right the wrongs of Xmas
lark4015 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
award winning actress Mary Steenburgen gives a brilliant performance as Ginnie Granger a young mother who discovers the joy and beauty this Xmas thanks to unshakable faith of her daughter her 6yrs old Abbie and a angel called Gideon played by harry dean Stanton Ginny's very own angel Ginny's wondrous experience will touch others and their hearts the sharing of one could help her life in so many ways in this timeless Disney will fulfill all your treasured memories it will bring Ur belief back and make sure to share your memories with loves one in this 1hr25mins with snow to around

with santa in to to help and go around to help define graineys change I give this 7/10
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Excellent balance of darkness and redemption
SteveFranklin18 December 2006
Like "It's a Wonderful Life", this is a movie that avoids being overly sentimental by exposing real darkness in the protagonist before she gets the opportunity to miraculously gain a new perspective on herself and the people important in her life. Harry Dean Stanton is heartbreakingly genuine as the Gideon, the Cowboy Angel. As an old fan of John Byner as a comedian/impressionist, I was impressed that I didn't even recognize him in a dramatic character role until I saw the credits. The children's responses as tragedy unfolds are remarkable, simple, direct and real. As a fan of Mary Steenburgen, with a bit of a crush on her when I saw the movie, it was difficult to see her be so convincing as an initially unsympathetic character. This is a film with an edge, perhaps not for the faint of heart or skittish children, but it's the kind of movie I look forward to seeing again and love to introduce to friends.
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Are you all kidding me??????
baboizwaycool425 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This was the WORST Christmas movie I ever saw. I took my two small children to see this. It was the darkest, most dismal plot- family has no money, mom loses her job, father gets killed in the bank, bank robber steals family car with both kids in the back and after high speed chase, drives off the bridge and drowns them in the river. Mom is left all alone. No wonder her Christmas spririt is gone. Christmas angels do not rescue children that have drowned, and Santa does not bring back dead fathers! I thought this was the WORST message to send children. Better to tell them that there is NO Santa than show them a movie like this!!
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Dark with no Magic, Christmas or Otherwise
JessicaLSalmans24 December 2014
Let me begin by saying I love Mary Steenbergen. That being said, when I saw that she was in this, I thought "how bad could it be?"

Um, BAD. This is the darkest, weirdest, most uncomfortable movie I've seen in a while and calling it a Christmas movie only works in terms of the fact that it is set during Christmas. There is no joy, magic, or cheer to be found in classic.

Three quarters of the way in, we were all baffled and uncomfortable but were too invested to turn it off. I seriously cannot comprehend that there are people who like this movie.

Even knowing that this movie was made in 1985, I can't find a logical excuse for any of what I'm watching right now. Yes, I'm currently still watching it, but it is SO BAD that I pulled up IMDb in the midst of viewing to write this warning to others. SKIP IT. OR watch it as a drinking game. But don't think you're getting a joyful Christmas Classic here. You aren't. Noooooo you are not.
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A Traumatic Movie for 3 Kids! (SPOILERS AHEAD)
qcloes099 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
As others have warned, this is NOT a movie for children (unless you love to torture them with horrific events).

My mother took my sisters and me to see this, based on the title and it was at Christmas time.

SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! (Don't read if you plan on watching anyway)

Our younger sister, only 10 years old at the time, had nightmares for weeks. She was scared to get in the car and afraid our parent would get killed. Why? It's in the movie. This heartwarming little film has someone being short to death and children drowning when a car plunges in the water. We see it all. Since we had no internet at the time, our Mom didn't know these visions would appear in front of us kids until the "surprise" ending. Unfortunately the ending didn't quite redeem what you see for most of the movie. Oh yeah....there's the depressing issues of bankruptcy, a Suicidal mother, and an "Angel" who looks like a Pedophile and skulks around children as though he is one.

I know the world has changed, and children are a bit more savvy. However, I am writing this to let parents know and be forewarned.
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A fantastic Christmas movie
aurora106630 November 2004
This has been one of my favorite Christmas movies since I was seven. (Has it really been almost twenty years?) Warm without being sappy, it takes a different spin on the "person must be taught the true meaning Christmas" theme that has become something of a cliché. The magic feels organic instead of flashy, and events progress with out feeling contrived or strained. Like the best stories, (It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol) things get a little grim before the warm and happy ending, but it's never too dark or scary for kids. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is looking for an interesting story that will leave them warm and satisfied at the end.
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We hated this movie
carson980624 December 2006
My spouse & I found this movie to be very schlocky. It started out good, but quickly got unbelievable & ridiculous. Most of the acting was poor, with the exception of the little girl, Abbie, who really was terrific. In addition, the dialog was predictable & lame - especially Gideon, the Angel's. Also, without giving away anything, when one of the characters has a tragedy, she almost appears nonchalant. At first we thought it was 'shock', but then we realized that it was just a terrible script. We love almost all of the Hallmark movies & their heart-warming stories, but this movie doesn't rise to the occasion of being one. There are so many great ones - don't waste your time with this horrible movie.
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Oi Veh !
mrsTrellis-219 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Read on and take note - you could save 88 minutes of your life (was that all!).

Unremittingly bleak, this film sets out to produce (I'm guessing) a modern small town American Christmas fable in the Capra style. If fails....completely and absolutely fails. I've been trying to think of one good thing about it and can't. Let me mention some of the highlights ...

People don't die, they get to spend eternity as immigrant workers in Santa's factory. Angels are actually ex-cowboys who sit in trees. Santa can bring people back from the dead (if you send him a nice letter).

And the plot.. I won't spoil it for you but there has to be some light in films if only to contrast with the darkness but there isn't any. Even the photography is bleak - snow shown at the end of a freeze, everywhere looking cold, damp and miserable.

As you might guess, the film has a happy (schmaltzy) ending. What a relief !
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One Magic Christmas very magical, perfect for the Christmas season!
rejoefrankel8 December 1999
One Magic Christmas seems to fall under the category of fantasy films that are suitable for the whole family, but especially relevant to adults. Like E.T. the movie is designed to tug at the heartstrings, and in the beginning it will initially strike viewers as somewhat heavy-handed and sad. But this film is worth sticking with, and it lives up to its title.

I went into this movie expecting a somewhat conventional Hollywood fable...complete with gooey sentiment and multiple climaxes. What I got instead was a thoroughly engaging, sensitively directed film that left me with a genuinely warm feeling in my heart, following in the tradition of It's A Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol. One Magic Christmas is a touching story with an ending that pays off. It should be a must see on everybody's list during the holiday season!!
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Creepiest Angel; violent scenes; not appropriate for children
hawktwo23 December 2003
My kids and I saw this when it was new at the theatre. It's too violent for small children. Showing how loss of a job can cause fighting between parents is okay. Showing a violent shooting is not appropriate for the audience for which this movie is intended.

I was appalled at the angel being portrayed by someone who looks and sounds like a stereotypical child molester. He's dark and he meets one of the children at night when she is not with an adult. I worked hard at teaching my kids not to approach strangers. This movie counters that by showing that a kindly stranger can be your family's best friend.
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Not a Christmas film for young children.
morrowman226 August 2005
First off I would like to say that this movie should have had a PG rating and not a G rating. Most young children between the ages 4 through 10 are not going to understand the plot or point to this film because it is kind of a dark and depressing film. Even though at the end Ginny turned out to like Christmas, throughout the movie was very tense especially the scene where Harry kills Jack at the bank. Even though it was all part of Ginny's dream by Gideon to like Christmas most young children are not going to understand that along with many other scenes in her dream. So, the bottom line is if you have young children between the ages of 4 to 10 sit with them when they watch this movie because it may frighten them like it did me when I was 5 years old.
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Good grief! Not for children's viewing!
smorton-227 November 2006
Sorry, but I will spoil both the plot line and the ending for you in hopes of avoiding a holiday fiasco like the one that I now face. The father dies and the mother asks Santa in a letter to bring him back to the family for Christmas,...and Santa does. Dad is peachy, happy healthy and totally unaware of the fact that he had died. All ends syrupy sweet.

But as a parent who recently watched my five year-old lose his best canine friend, it was a horror flick. Now my son is convinced that all he has to do to bring his buddy back is to ask Santa! Do not underestimate the willpower of a young heart- no amount of persuasion will convince him that it was only a movie and that his dog is NOT coming back for Christmas. It has been heart breaking to watch his joy only to know that Christmas Eve he will have to face his loss afresh.

Shame on you on behalf of all the believers that have lost a loved one recently. It is hard enough to deal with the loss one time for a child, but there are some wishes that we shouldn't even portray as a possibility.
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Great riff on It's a Wonderful Life.
doom_conquers_all15 December 2004
This is indeed an underrated Christmas classic! I saw this movie as a kid in the theater and my mom was a bit turned off by the disturbing nature of some scenes, but now that I've watched it as an adult, I love all the references to It's a Wonderful Life, and all the dark elements in the film. It's nice to see a holiday film that cuts through the schmaltz. People often label It's a Wonderful Life as being too sentimental and sappy, but seem to overlook the themes of suicide, child abuse, poverty and death that run throughout the film. Things have to hit rock bottom for George Bailey to see the value of his life, as is the case in this film. The sheer darkness of what could be, as shown by the angel Gideon, make Ginny's embracing the Christmas spirit all the more resonant.
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don't watch this movie
elilenna79 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Ginny Grainger is seriously depressed, simple as that. Her husband lost his job and the house months ago, but he's a kind, poetic soul who can't really be bothered with mundane issues like being poor and homeless. Ginny is not a Grinch or a Scrooge, literally the only reason why she values money so much is because her husband won't, and right now it's up to her to make sure her kids don't starve. How fair is it to be mad at someone who works her awful retail job until late at night on Christmas Eve, when the alternative is getting fired as well? Or for not letting her husband touch their very last meager savings to open the bike shop he vaguely dreams about? And still, she tries to be there for her family and not spoil the holidays for the little ones too much, no matter how hopeless and empty inside she is herself.

A woman like that would need a lot more appreciation from her loved ones and some "me" time, stat. But no, according to old St. Nick what she needs is a serious lesson in Christmas Spirit! She won't even say "Merry Christmas!" How dares she be so bitter and disenchanted? Not on his watch! So he sends her Gideon, a "Christmas Angel" who wears a creepy black coat, never cracks a smile, looks all the time like he's really uncomfortable with his job, likes to stalk people, approaches children in secret at night (STRANGER DANGER!) and only ever does the bare minimum his job requires.

During what is no doubt her worst Christmas Eve in the history of ever, Ginny finds out her husband is taking their savings behind her back, gets fired, faces her husband only to see him randomly getting shot and dying in her arms, has her kids kidnapped by the guy who already killed her husband only to see them fall off a bridge into the river. After believing for several, agonizing hours that the children are dead too, Gideon FINALLY decides to do something with his magic powers and returns them to her. At this point, after everything that already happened, poor Ginny has to find the strength to sit down and explain to her two small children that their dad was killed and he's never gonna come back.

Gideon then straight up kidnaps the little girl and flies her to meet Santa at the North Pole (spoiler alert: Santa's workers are not elves, they're zombies!), thus making Ginny spend her Christmas night in a panic, frantically looking for her ONCE AGAIN missing six year old. But then the kid comes back bringing a letter from Santa, and suddenly all is fixed as Ginny realizes that magic is real and all she ever needed to do was to believe and smile and suck it up even more to her already unbearable family situation! She is magically taken back in time where her husband is still alive and she gets to relive Christmas Eve and make all the right choices, nominally saying "to hell with my job" and burning all their last savings too while she's at it. I guess if they end up homeless, at least they had one hell of a Christmas.

Eventually a brand new, happy Ginny meets Santa under the tree, and finally gets to thank the man who just made an already depressed woman live through the most cruel, traumatic series of event ever, just to teach her a lesson about magic. Or, as I choose to believe, Ginny is so traumatized after seeing her whole family die that she hallucinates Gideon and Santa to give herself a happy ending and a little peace of mind before the years and years of therapy she will no doubt need.
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How did THIS earn a "G" Rating??!
Philly8811 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
(Spoilers ahead)........When this movie came out from Disney we went to see it. How could we go wrong? It was from Disney and it had a sweet title. Boy, were we duped!! How on earth did the murder, drownings, depression, and other adult themes pass the ratings board?? Geez.

The movie is stark, dark and unrelentingly depressing. Until the surprise ending, which, by the way.....we know nothing about during the movie.

Mary Steenbergen is a good actress, but it is her personality to talk slowly and usually look like she's drugged. In this movie it was dwelled on and she's given a highly depressed role to play....she does it to the hilt. She's a mother with lots of problems and she's also contemplating suicide.

While watching this movie, I was thinking of every sad event in my life and it had me wanting to do the same......Until we walked into the daylight.

I'm so happy we didn't have children at the time.

Yes, we always want our kids to know that bad things exist. They see it in the news and hear about it. BUT I won't pay to have my children exposed to adult themes which came posed as a heartwarming" and "Magic Christmas." I'd rather get a root canal.
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Let's teach Ginny the REAL meaning of Christmas
sherryminou0726 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Warning....This review contains major spoilers.

Ginny is grouchy, and doesn't like the idea of Christmas. Her husband lost his job and there's no money for presents for the kids.

SPOILERS - WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD! Soooo. An "Angel" comes down and ta-da!! They kill off her husband by having him shot to death by a bank robber. Then they drown her kids by having the bank thief get into the dead husband's car and drive the car into a lake.

That'll teach Ginny a lesson! After the traumatic events we all see on the screen, with our kids no less, we get Santa Claus to the rescue. What Santa and an "Angel" have to do with each other is never explained since one comes from the heavens and the other is just a present giver.

After the audience including young children go through this gut wrenching chain of events, they turn around with one of the most schmaltzy, syrupy twists to make it better. Through the miracle of Santa.

So all ends well for Ginny and family. They learn the TRUE meaning of Christmas.....Thanks to Santa Claus who can bring back the dead. There's presents for all.

As someone else wrote......How on earth did Disney wrangle a "G" rating with all this violence and especially drowning of children. What twisted soul at Disney thought of this additional part is beyond me.

I guess that in today's world, no one blinks an eye when a real parent kills off his or her own children. So this form of "entertainment" is now acceptable. Gee, I wish Santa could them back.

Perhaps if I wrote him a letter........
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This doesn't age well
wisewebwoman22 December 2000
I just watched this again as part of my Christmas movies feast and found it not as good as I had thought from a previous viewing. We never do discover the reason behind Steenbergen's disinterest in Christmas, and there are a few other gaps in the story line also. But the good points are many: It is beautifully filmed, Santa's workshop is a particular delight and worth seeing the movie for, still enjoyed Harry Dean Stanton as the cowboy angel, the little girl is stellar in her performance. I gave it a 5 out of 10. Not suitable for children at all, it would be too sad and too complicated to explain.
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One magic movie!
OllieSuave-00719 December 2015
This is indeed one magic Christmas movie, a story about Ginny Grainger (Mary Steenburgen), who and her family have fallen on hard times. Therefore, she is devoid of any spirit or optimism during the Christmas season. As a result, Santa sends Christmas angel Gideon to help Ginny find her way and believe in Christmas.

This story definitely reminds you to always appreciate what you have and never take anything or anyone for granted. It also makes you believe in miracles.

The plot keeps you engaged from start to finish as you follow the everyday, typical lives of Ginny Grainger, her husband Jack (Gary Basaraba) and their children Cal and Abbie. You feel their hardship and the effects of unemployment, living paycheck to paycheck and a gloomy Christmas outlook. But, the miracles of Santa and Gideon the Christmas angel brings much warmth, miracles and touching moments to the movie as livens up the spirit of the family just in time for Christmas. The movie may be a little too make-believe in certain moments, but there is enough drama, character development and humor that everyday people can relate to.

Mary Steenburgen did a nice job in her role, as did Gary Basaraba and child actors Arthur Hill and Robbie Magwood, bringing innocence and tenderness to the story.

Overall, it's one of the best Christmas movies I've seen. Highly recommend!

Grade A
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