A disillusioned woman (therefore no fun to watch) has the worst Christmas imaginable when her husband looses his job, their house is taken away, she’s forced to work extra shifts at a thankless job until she is fired, her husband is murdered in a bank holdup, and her kids are kidnapped and then drowned in a freezing river. Enough Christmas cheer for you? Well, during all this, a creepy angel has been peeping, and occasionally beckoning young Abbie to come over to him, because nothing is more wholesome than a weird homeless guy trying to get a little girl to join him in the bushes. (Now there’s a family message! Children, always go off with deviant strangers because they might have something “special” to show you.) Naturally, in this dark, tragic story, Santa Claus shows up to teach Ginny the true meaning of death.
In case you’re not paying attention: One Magic Christmas is a wretched, mournful entry in the Christmastime melodrama category, that steals from A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, and somehow tops it off with Santa Claus. There isn’t a single moment that isn’t unpleasant.
Obviously made on a tight budget, it has the look of a made-for-TV quickie, and the dialog to go with. The acting is even worse (I’m pretty sure that a wife would show some signs of grieving after her husband is murdered) and its pace is painfully slow.
So it’s a bad film. And I want to warn parents not to be confused by the Disney name and think this is good family entertainment. Your kids will end up crying (and learn questionable lessons about the nature of death and how to act around sleazy men who hang out in trees) and unstable Aunt Matilda will swallow her bottle of tranquilizers. But that’s not why I’m writing about it.
One Magic Christmas has a bizarre theology that I couldn’t pass up. Lots of Christmas movies are a bit confused on what religion they want to profess. A Christmas Carol gives us Protestant Christianity with ghosts that walk the Earth and spirits that are neither angels nor devils, yet have extraordinary powers. But the basic hierarchy has few surprises. God/Jesus is (are?) in charge. But One Magic Christmas has me baffled. There’s an angel. He’s a weird angel in need of a bath, but he’s still an angel, and angels are normally messengers of God. He’s also a “Christmas Angel,” a designation you’re unlikely to find in either The Bible or in medieval angelology. I wonder if it is above or below Cherubim in the ranking of the host of Heaven. This angel is there to help Ginny get into the Christmas spirit, but in true angel form, he doesn’t do a lot. He saves the kids (or resurrects them; it isn’t clear), but otherwise just stands around and occasionally tries ill-considered plans, such as telling the girl to have her mother mail her letter to Santa (because mailing your kid’s letter is certainly going to change your feelings about Christmas). Fine, so he doesn’t do much because he’s a messenger. But for whom? When he’s approached about bringing Gary back from the dead, he replies that this is a job for a higher power. That power? Jesus? God? The Holy Spirit? Allah? The Giant Spaghetti Monster? Nope. Santa Claus. Yes, the angel works for Santa. He brings the praying girl to the North Pole, not Heaven, and Ginny must learn to believe in Santa, not God. For if you believe in Santa then even death has no power over you.
Well, that’s just…neat! Fundies have complained for years that Santa has been elevated (wrongly in their minds) to the status of a god, and normally they’re out of their little minds. But not this time—probably. Either the one true god, creator of Heaven and Earth, master of death and commander of the angels, wears a red suit, or, there is no god, and Santa is a powerful non-holy creature who has necromantic abilities (can raise the dead and controls those who have already died). Oh, he also can reverse time, which pushes him a little closer to the god category, or he’s Superman. It makes it difficult to give this a definite rating, but either way, this is an amusing position for a mainstream flick.