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Film / One Magic Christmas

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Merry Christmas!

A 1985 live-action Christmas fantasy film from Disney, directed by Phillip Borsos and starring Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton.

Ginnie Grainger (Steenburgen) is the mother of two children, Abbie (Elisabeth Harnois) and Cal (Robbie Magwood). Her husband Caleb (Arthur Hill) has been out of work for months, and the family has to move out of their company-owned house by January, and it's almost Christmas. Caleb wants to start his own business fixing bikes, but Ginnie – worrying that it will take too long to turn a profit from that when they're in need of money right now – urges him to find a new job, causing a fight between them.

Because Christmas coming along threatens even more problems given the financial hardships facing the family, Ginnie thus becomes very Scroogelike, forgetting the true meaning of the season. It is up to the angel Gideon (Stanton) to reunite a broken family and to help teach them the meaning of Christmas once again.

Essentially Disney's retelling of It's a Wonderful Life, it's been said by some to be a heartwarming classic, by others to be a horrifying story of a Crapsack World, particularly with what happens to the main character throughout her "lesson".


  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Cal still doesn't believe in Santa and doubts Abbie's plan despite being saved by a Christmas Angel a few hours before.
  • All Just a Dream: As it turns out, the disasters of Christmas Eve are apparently part of an alternate reality, with Ginnie learning to appreciate the holidays after she gets her letter from Santa. When she mails Abbie's letter at last, the clock is turned back to December 23. So on Christmas Eve, she helps out Harry, meaning Jack isn't shot and her kids not endangered, and she gets a chance to talk things over with her manager at the grocery store.
  • Blatant Lies: Harry tells the kids "I've never hurt nobody" Less than 5 minutes after shooting their father dead in cold blood.
  • Christmas Elves: Averted; at this North Pole, Santa is assisted by angels.
  • Crappy Holidays: Objectively, Ginnie is really not having a very merry Christmas! However, she ends up getting a second chance at one.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Essentially everything that happens to the heroine. She goes through the most soul-crushing experiences possible, all meted out upon her in order to teach her to value what she has. Of course everything gets better at the end, but even experiencing it at all would leave at least a few mental scars!
  • Deus ex Machina: Santa Claus, no less, magically makes everything right at the end. Still...
  • From Bad to Worse: And HOW. On Christmas Eve, Ginnie is fired from her job while her husband is killed in a botched bank robbery; she almost loses her kids too, and still has to break the news about their dad to them.
  • The Grinch: Ginnie is treated as this because she lacks the holiday spirit. However, given all the understandable reasons she has to feel stressed out instead of merry, this can come across more as The Complainer Is Always Wrong.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The kids only survive the car plunging into the river by way of Gideon's intervention.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: The Christmas lights go out when Jack and Ginnie have a disagreement about family finances, and the thief stealing the car, Jack getting shot at the bank, the 1950s Dodge falling into the river, and Ginnie getting fired from her job all turn out to be, or become, part of a Crapsaccharine World once Ginnie receives her letter from Santa and chooses to believe in Christmas. Time is reset to the night of December 23 and the lights magically come back on. She uses her second chance to help Harry out and prevent him from his criminal actions, and her manager at the grocery store tells her not to come back until after Christmas so she can celebrate with her family.
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending is clearly supposed to be bright, happy, and charming, but for many it is darkened by the sheer amount of hell poured onto the heroine throughout the film.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Poor, poor Ginnie is having the worst day she can imagine!