A farm girl nurses a wounded reindeer she believes is one of Santa's, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas. Her holiday spirit inspires those around her, something her disheartened father is having trouble understanding.
Preteen brothers from a broken marriage live with their mother, Denise, in a rural town. Ryan, the cheeky elder boy, wants to go live with their father, Matt, in Chicago. This confuses shy ... See full summary »
Jessica, the daughter of an impoverished farmer, still believes in Santa Claus. So when she comes across a reindeer with an injured leg, it makes perfect sense to her to assume that it is Prancer, who had fallen from a Christmas display in town. She hides him in her barn and feeds him cookies, until she can return him to Santa. Her father finds him and decides to sell him to the butcher, not for venison chops, but as an advertising display. Written by
Some occasionally clumsy dialogue only mildly undercuts the virtues of Greg Taylor's thoughtful script, which provides a surprisingly realistic depiction of the joys and heartaches of simple lives at Christmastime.
Rebecca Harrell is superb as 9-year-old Jessica, who finds an injured reindeer in the woods near her Michigan farm and determines to nurse it back to health in time to help pull Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. She's a marvelously realized character, refreshingly minus the cute kid mannerisms of many a Hollywood acting tyke. I particularly liked the way she deflected her father's tirades with her singlemindedness of purpose: he might get mad at her, but she was still going to do what she had to do. Very childlike, and very real.
A subplot about Jessica's helping a reclusive, eccentric neighbor (played by Cloris Leachman in a virtual cameo) seems truncated and unnecessary, but for the most part Taylor's scenario sticks to the basics and is better for it. Characters surrounding Jessica act like real people, not stereotypes, and events transpire with a sense of realism, not melodrama.
Credit for this tale's effectiveness also goes to Sam Elliott, who plays Jessica's father, a recent widower, with a harsh demeanor that seems to mask real pain and desperation. Thus his rapprochement with his wayward daughter carries unexpected depth of feeling and could not fail to move all but the most cynical. For a dad like me, I admit it put a big lump in my throat.
Despite a somewhat flawed climax -- to my mind, the vfx shot of Santa's sleigh coursing across the sky is unnecessary, given the magic moment just prior to it that reveals reindeer hoofprints leading to a precipice -- this nice little holiday film delivers a timeless message about faith and selflessness. Recommended for mature kids of 8 or older.
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