I managed to avoid seeing this relative newcomer to the basic cable Christmas canon for some time. Now I have seen it, and I’m voting we retitle it “The Secret Life of Reindeer”.
Stop me when this plot starts to sound familiar. There’s a little girl living with her mean older brother and angry, overworked father. She isn’t like them; there’s only one person who ever related to her and it is her mysteriously absent mother. The little girl (she is named Jess here) has only vague memories of her mom, but she was undoubtedly saint-like and would understand every last thing about her.
Now usually at this point in the story, something happens that shakes things up. Sometimes the girl gives up and runs away from her dysfunctional household, sometimes a person or event finally takes her away from her boring life, and sometimes she stays home but is given a test of faith. In this case, the test of faith is a reindeer with an injured leg, and the movie officially turns into a mash-up of “E.T.” and “Free Willy”, in addition to every last damn Oprah-endorsed novel ever.
And while it is a cliché storm, it really isn’t THAT bad. Just get ready to play the drinking game…
The Best Parts:
1 minutes in – There’s one in every classroom.
6 minutes in – Yikes, I didn’t know the Foreshadowing Fairy could be so extreme!
10 minutes in – Say, what IS Figgie Pudding anyway? Why not just sing, “please bring us some pie with figs in!”
14 minutes in – It really isn’t anybody’s fault but yours for not growing the kinds of roses that are half-wild and can survive being run over by a bus.
16 minutes in – AHHH! It’s a monster! It’s some kind of antlered sheep!
19 minutes in – Oh my God, the High Bangs.
This was a popular big-hair hairstyle in my sixth grade class. I don’t think we had a special name for it, but I remember it being weirdly fascinating. The “Wave” was a popular variation.
20 minutes in – I… don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone make that particular intellectual leap.
22 minutes in – You might want to consider wearing Safety Orange, kid.
24 minutes in – “And if you don’t believe me, there are dozens and dozens of books sold at Wall-Mart about it. Look for Oprah’s sticker.”
26 minutes in – Every deer is Bambi’s mom.
32 minutes in – And EVERY 80’s fantasy film with a kid hero secretly wants to be “E.T.”
34 minutes in – “You’re just about the right height for me to gouge your eyeballs out with my antlers!”
37 minutes in – Certainly, it isn’t because of all the cookies you’ve been feeding him.
43 minutes in – I am really amazed that this frozen pond didn’t factor into the plot later; I had the worst feeling that it would.
45 minutes in – God bless Mall Santas. All the stress of an entire year of classroom teaching in just a month or two.
49 minutes in – “Boy, you are REALLY at the perfect eyeball-gouging height!”
54 minutes in – $5.00 is lowballing too much, Jess. Have you SEEN most old lady houses?
57 minutes in – So is the message here, “don’t help anyone, EVER” or “Push people you hardly know into doing fun things; they will love it”?
1 hour in – Hey, this has been a long full moon hasn’t it?
1 hour, 6 minutes in – I’m not going to act like I never sang like this in church but…
1 hour, 7 minutes in – Man, Sam Elliot is great but what a crappy role.
1 hour, 12 minutes in – And what? You think he’s going to just shoot the deer who’s famous in the paper now? The whole town will hate him forever!
1 hour, 18 minutes in – “I’m running away to look for a house where there are three beekeeping sisters! And they will take me in and love me and help to fill the gaping hole left from my angelic absent mother!”
1 hour, 20 minutes in – By the way, SPRING Peepers singing away in the middle of a blizzard.
1 hour, 26 minutes in – I repeat: EVERY 80’s fantasy film with a kid hero secretly wants to be “E.T.” And couldn’t the brother have dragged a Christmas Tree over so she’d have something soft to land on?
1 hour, 35 minutes in – Woah, she’s genre savvy!
1 hour, 38 minutes in – Hi, PsychoRabbit.
1 hour, 40 minutes in – Everybody! “Free me! / Love me and free me! / Free me and free me! / Doo-doo-doo-doo!”
1 hour, 41 minutes in – Ehhh… honestly? At nine-years-old, I’d rather have the Hero Shot of the deer flying against the moon or something.
1 hour, 42 minutes in – Oh, there it is.
Classic Lines of Dialogue:
“They lost the true spirit of Christmas… And found it locked in the heart of one little girl.” – Weird ass tagline
“PRAN-CER is in the SHED near our HOUSE!!!” – Jess
Things I Learned from this Movie/Book/Whatever:
* – If God, then Santa Claus, and vice-versa.
* – Christmas pageants would be more entertaining if we saw more kids in chicken costumes.
* – Huge deer are interesting. They are also radical.
* – Christmas decorations are 100% accurate as to what Santa ect. really look like.
* – An injured reindeer will bellow loud enough for every carnivore within miles to hear.
* – Deer eat wood. And cookies, it seems.
* – Abe Vigoda, you’ll go down in history!
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? Prancer, the world’s loudest reindeer!
Good Soundtrack? Do you like treacly piano?
Hot Guys? No.
Pretty Scenery? Yes.
Nifty Animation/Special Effects/Illustrations? Uh… the hero shot is a little… maybe they did it on purpose so things would look more ambiguous!
Drinking Game Potential? Follow the Armless Maiden Drinking Game! Next time you encounter a “young woman overcomes the odds” story, take a shot when one of the metaphors mentioned here shows up..
Head Movie Potential? No.
Jordan, after living with a family of beekeepers for some reason.
An Orion Pictures Film made in 1989. Written by Greg Taylor and directed by John Hancock.
Rebecca Harrel, Sam Elliot, Abe Vigoda, and Cloris Leachman.