Grab an econo-pack of tissues, gather your loved ones around a cozy television, and bring on the hot cocoa--it's time for a dose of Christmas spirit. The tender and charming Mary Steenburgen (Parenthood
) dons a sour disposition in her role as Ginny Grainger, a woman who finds little joy in life lately--let alone in the impending holiday season. Money is tight, her husband (beautifully downplayed by nice-guy Gary Basaraba) lost his job, and the family must move out of their house. Ginny cannot even bring herself to say, "Merry Christmas," despite her family's enthusiasm about the big day. With help from Ginny's brave and loving daughter (sweetly performed by Elisabeth Harnois) and a Christmas angel named Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton), Ginny undergoes a life-altering experience à la It's a Wonderful Life
. The result? Happy endings, hugs and kisses, pass the tissues.
Not a light holiday entertainer by any means, the plot verges on depressing at times, as the family struggles through money issues and the tedium of daily suburban survival. While handled fairly subtly, some of the bridging story--including a shooting, a kidnapping, and a drowning--might prove disturbing to children under 6 years old. And really: if the somber Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas) repeatedly appeared in your neighborhood, cloaked in a cowboy hat and overcoat, would you allow your kids outside? Still, a well-made favorite to cherish. --Liane Thomas