A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
This is very unfortunate. What we have here is a movie with an intelligent screenplay, wonderful performances and skillful direction, but it is a tactical miscalculation from beginning to end. The name of the movie is "One Magic Christmas," it comes from the folks at Walt Disney Pictures, and although it eventually arrives at a sort of happy ending, first it spends almost 90 minutes telling a sad, sad story. Since the movie was presumably made for family audiences, why did it have to be about all of the most tragic things that can happen to a family?
Let me make a depressing list of what happens (and if you plan to see the movie, maybe you had better read no further - unless you are trying to decide whether young kids will like this movie).
The movie is about the Grainger family, Mom and Dad and two kids, who live in a nice house on a nice street in a nice city. Then Dad loses his job. Since they live in a company house, they have to be out by Jan. 1. That means Christmas season is spent packing and planning to move. Just to make sure we don't miss the point, a Scrooge from the company comes around to show the house to the next people who will be moving in.
Well, at least the Graingers have a little money in the bank. Mr. Grainger (Gary Basaraba) goes to the bank to take out $200 for Christmas presents. But then we meet a desperate man (Wayne Robson) who is also out of work and broke, and who tells his little son to wait for him at the bus station. The man sticks up the bank and shoots Mr. Grainger dead. Then he steals Mr. Grainger's car for the getaway. The Grainger kids, Abbie and Cal, are in the back seat, so they are kidnapped. There is more bad news. The car plunges through a bridge railing, and the kids are drowned. (Meanwhile, the bad man's little boy is presumably still waiting at the bus station - a loose end the movie leaves hanging.)