One Magic Christmas (1985)

Film and Plot Synopsis

The Grainger family is struggling to make ends meet as Christmas approaches. Jack is out of work, and Ginny has lost her Christmas spirit. The couple’s young daughter Abbie tries to mail a letter to Santa Claus, but she is stopped by a mysterious angel named Gideon who tells her that Ginny should mail the letter for him. However, when tragedy strikes the family on Christmas Eve, it will take Santa Claus and the restoration of Ginny’s Christmas spirit to restore everything back to the rightful order and remind Ginny to celebrate what you have and not what you want.

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One Magic Christmas

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‘One Magic Christmas’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
One Magic Christmas (1985)Jack and Ginny Grainger (Gary Basaraba and Mary Steenburgen) are the parents of two children, Cal (Robbie Magwood) and Abbie (Elisabeth Harnois). Jack and Ginny have fallen on hard times as the family approaches the Christmas holiday. Jack has been out of work since July, and the family has been ordered to move out of their house by the first of the year. Jack spends his abundant free time working on bikes in his basement as a hobby. He plans on giving one such bike to one of his children’s poor friends, Molly Monaghan (Sarah Polley), for Christmas. Jack would love to open up his own bike shop but realizes that doing so would deplete the family’s dwindling savings, something they desperately need to survive. Meanwhile, Ginny works as a cashier at a grocery store to make ends meet until Jack can find another job.

One night shortly before Christmas, Abbie places a letter to Santa Claus in a mailbox. An angel named Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton), who has been tasked with watching the Graingers, retrieves the letter from the mailbox and returns it to Abbie. Gideon tells Abbie that it should be her mother who should mail the letter. Abbie agrees to the angel’s request and begins to cross the street to return home. Suddenly, a car hurtles down the road towards Abbie. Gideon stops the accident and allows Abbie to cross the street without further incident.

The next day, the Graingers visit Jack’s grandfather Caleb (Arthur Hill) at his home. Caleb delivers a couple of presents to the kids, a Christmas book for Cal and a snow globe of the North Pole for Abbie. That night, Gideon visits Abbie in her room. Abbie informs Gideon that her mother did not mail the letter to Santa Claus. Gideon warns the young girl that some things are going to happen the next day and to not be afraid.

Meanwhile, Ginny and Jack are in the kitchen discussing their finances. Jack expresses his desire to open a bike shop, but Ginny is against the idea and tells her husband that he should find a new job. She argues that it would take too long for the business to begin earning a profit and the family could not afford to be without money for that long. Jack becomes frustrated with his wife and storms out of the house. Ginny chases after he husband in an attempt to smooth things over. As she is walking past Christmas lights, they all begin to turn off around her, symbolizing the last of the Christmas spirit draining from her.

On the next day, Christmas Eve, Ginny gets a ride to work from a friend. She and the friend stop at a gas station and Ginny sees Harry Dickens (Wayne Robson) trying to sell some of his possessions in order to support himself and his son, with little success. She pays little attention to Harry’s strife and goes about her day. Meanwhile, Jack takes the kids and goes to bank to take some money out to do a little Christmas shopping. Jack tells his kids to wait in the car while he goes into the bank, but Abbie gets out to visit her mother at the grocery store across the street. Abbie informs her mom that Jack is the bank taking money out to buy Christmas presents, which infuriates Ginny. She leaves to stop Jack and is seen by her boss, Herbie Conklin (Timothy Webber), who promptly fires her for leaving the store.

Ginny takes Abbie and places her back in the car before going to into the bank to stop Jack from withdrawing money. However, she is shocked when she sees that Harry is inside attempting to rob the bank at gunpoint. Jack tries to stop the robbery and ends up being shot by Harry. Jack collapses on the ground, dead. A distraught Ginny cradles her dead husband on the ground as Harry flees in a panic and steals Jack’s car with Cal and Abbie inside. Ginny chases after Harry in his car, but it unfortunately runs out of gas before she can catch up with him. Meanwhile, Harry comes to a bridge where he police have set up a road block to stop the bank robber. Harry swerves to avoid it but skids off the bridge and plummets to his death in the icy river below.

A devastated Ginny returns to her empty house and cries to herself in the bathroom. Caleb arrives at her house and tells her that the kids have been found standing on the side of the road between the town and the bridge. The police believe Harry dropped them off before the crash, when in reality Gideon rescued them from the river. When the kids are brought back to the house, Ginny tells her children that their father was murdered by Harry and isn’t coming home.

Later that night, Abbie runs away to the center of town where the community’s large Christmas tree is kept. She seeks and finds Gideon, and Abbie asks the angel to bring her father back. Gideon tells her that he can’t fix things like her father’s death and the only person who can bring Jack back is Santa Claus himself. The angel takes Abbie to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus (Jan Rubes). Santa tells the sad girl that he too cannot bring back her father, nor bring Christmas spirit back to her mother. However, Santa tells Abbie that she can. Santa takes Abbie through his factory and retrieves an old letter written by Ginny when she was a small child. Santa explains to the young girl that the letter may allow Abbie to help her mother.

Gideon takes Abbie back to her home. The young girl gives Ginny the old letter. Ginny reads the letter and finally realizes the true meaning of Christmas – to celebrate what you have and not what you want. Ginny walks to the mailbox and drops Abbie’s letter inside. At that moment, all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood come back on. Jack suddenly reappears, and Ginny hugs her now very much alive, but very confused husband. Jack is just coming back from his walk on the night before Christmas Eve.

The next day, Christmas Eve for a second time, Ginny relives the events of day with a much more optimistic attitude. Ginny convinces Herbie, her boss, to let her take the day off to spend with her family. At the gas station, she buys a camp stove from Harry, who gratefully thanks her and wishes her “Merry Christmas”. Later that night, she attends the tree lighting in the village square where she joins in on the singing of Christmas carols.

Later, Ginny writes a check to Jack as a payment towards his dream of a bike shop. Afterwards, the Grainger family presents the refurbished bike to Molly. In the night, Ginny begins to fall asleep when she is awaken by a sound downstairs. She goes down to investigate and finds Santa putting presents under the tree. Santa turns and wishes Ginny a Merry Christmas, and the overwhelmed Ginny returns the sentiment.

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Buena Vista Distribution released One Magic Christmas on November 22, 1985. Phillip Borsos directed the film starring Mary Steenburgen, Gary Basaraba, and Harry Dean Stanton.

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