Film Festival: Contemporary Christmas
Prancer (1989) takes place in a farming community in the mid West. It’s a heart-warming Christmas fantasy with a very realistic look.
The film opens in a country school room with the children practicing O Little Town of Bethlehem. Jessica (Rebecca Harrell Tickell) is singing too loudly and enthusiastically.
All the children are in Christmas pageant.
“Which is why many believe today that when the moon is full on Christmas Eve it offers a magical time of peace, a blessing on the world.” –teacher
Workmen are putting up town Christmas decorations. They hang a string of reindeer across the main street. Prancer falls and gets damaged by a car.
Jessica’s father, John Riggs (Sam Elliott) is having to sell his tractor.
“Are we gonna starve? –Aw of course not. Stop worrying about these things will ya? You’re gonna be all right. We got apples. We’re gonna eat applesauce, and apple cider, and apple pie. And there’s stewed apples and baked apples and dried apples. Apple butter. No, we’re not gonna starve.” –Jessica and John
Jessica is a happy little girl. She wears her angel costume everywhere and decorates her room for Christmas. All in spite of her father’s dour and depressed attitude. She misses her dead mother.
Jessica and her friend Carol (Ariana Richards) go sledding on the biggest hill in town. Jessica can’t control her sled and plows right through Mrs. McFarland’s garden of floribunda roses. Mrs. McFarland (Cloris Leachman) is an old lady who lives in a grand Victorian house – when she comes outside it reminds me of the Wicked Witch of the West!
While walking home, Jessica finds a real reindeer in the woods. He is not afraid of her, so she’s sure he’s Prancer. Her father won’t listen when she tries to tell him. Her friend Carol is a skeptic about Santa Claus, God, heaven, and Prancer. Jessie needs to believe to stay connected to her mother.
Daddy John tells Jessica that she is going to live with her aunt. Just then, Prancer appears in the middle of the road and John gets his rifle to put the wounded animal down. Prancer runs away, but later that night, Jessie finds him hiding in the barn with the cows.
“Isn’t he the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? –Like a cow. With antlers.” –Jessie and vet
Filmed in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, the film has a very realistic look, with the small town, the hairstyles and clothes, and the toughness of the life.
“It is inspiring to see that some children are able to hold on to their dreams and innocent spirit. Yes, Santa, there are still Virginias in this world. We have one right here in Three Oaks.” –newspaper editorial
Waiting for the magic to come with the full moon, helping Prancer get well and back to Santa, and believing in Christmas mean everything to Jessie. She’s a determined little girl in spite of her sad family circumstance, a la Pollyanna.
Add Prancer to your Christmas movie list for a fantasy film with realistic acting and a great little girl hero.
- Prancer (1989) from IMDb
- You can rent Mrs. McFarland’s house for events! From Historic New Carlisle
- Reindeer names from Oxford Dictionaries
- Places to visit reindeer from USA Today
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