Christmas Candle, The
PG
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: +3

Hans Matheson, Barbara Flynn, Lesley Manville, Samantha Barks, Sylvester McCoy, Susan Boyle.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Gladbury is a small town in the English countryside with only a legend to give it significance. Every 25 years an angel visits the village candle maker and touches a single candle. Whoever lights this candle receives a miracle on Christmas Eve. But in 1890, at the dawn of the electric age, this centuries-old legend may come to an end.

When David Richmond (Hans Matheson), a progressive young minister, arrives in Gladbury, the villagers discover a new formula for miracles: good deeds and acts of kindness. While David's quest to modernize Gladbury sets him at odds with the old world candle maker, he finds an unlikely ally in the lovely skeptic, Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks). Now, the fiery candle maker must fight to preserve the legacy of the Christmas Candle. But when the candle goes missing, the miraculous and human collide in the most astonishing Christmas the village of Gladbury has ever seen.

Based on the book by Max Lucado, who also makes a cameo in the film, The Christmas Candle marks the feature-film debut for Scottish singer Susan Boyle, who was introduced to the world on Britain's Got Talent in April 2009.

PREVIEW REVIEW: It has a made-for-TV feel, which can be a good thing (Hallmark’s Saint Maybe) or a bad thing (Liz and Dick). I’m afraid in this case, it’s not so good. Of course, this is just an opinion, but I’m basing my view on the acting, which ranges from poor all the way up to ho-hum. Then there’s its premise, that of an enchanted candle that blesses, a premise I found as profound as a wick that won’t light. I was further put off by John Stephenson’s direction, as he managed to avoid one single moment of truth or inspiration.

It is nicely photographed and those in charge of the set design and costumes should be congratulated, but when it took me two days before I finally sat down in front of my keyboard, I could barely remember the storyline. It’s just not memorable. (Thank goodness I took notes, or I would have had to sit through it again.)

It does deal with lost then found faith, and it does contain an important line, “There’s no such thing as a wasted prayer,” but the production lacks charm or any moment of significance. As for the screen debut of Susan Boyle, well, her thespian abilities are nearly as banal as the song she sings (Miracle Hymn), which drones on endlessly during the final credits.

I’m sorry for being an old humbug, but the folks at Echolight Partners are asking you to pay to see this movie. I thought you should be warned.

Allow me to suggest a couple of DVD alternatives, the first being the aforementioned Saint Maybe, which first ran on CBS in 1998.

Saint Maybe premise: When a ne’er-do-well finds himself the cause of his brother’s death, he seeks a reason for his life. He stumbles upon a church gathering and quickly turns his life around, living for others.

This affecting Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of a family dealing with the loss of a loved one is a wonderful film suitable for the Christmas holidays. There are so many powerful messages and life lessons, none of which overpowers the entertaining drama.

What a delight to find a film where scripture is quoted, the Christian lifestyle is not mocked, prayers are spoken and the gospel message is put into practice.

Due to the adult subject matter and two deaths, the material may not be suitable for little ones, but teens and their parents will be nurtured as they see a family come together after tragic circumstances. But beware: have a Kleenex on hand. You’ll need it.

Saint Maybe stars Blythe Danner, Edward Herrmann, Melina Kanakaredes, Thomas McCarthy, Jeffrey Nordling, and Mary-Louise Parker.

And if you want to view people coming together through spiritual healing, try Babette’s Feast.

The 1987 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, Babette’s Feasttells the story of a homeless French woman taken in by two religiously devout Danish sisters. The gentle sisters are heading up their conservative church, long ago started by their father. But it is a dying church, filled with members who have developed feuds among one another. It is winter in this cold, barren community. The imagery reflects their dying church, because the members have left Christ out of their pious beliefs.

Well, it turns out that the French woman was once a famous chef. She has hidden her talents, subjecting herself as a housekeeper for the two sisters. Then one day she discovers that she has won a lottery back in her homeland. When the money arrives, she shares her good fortune in a most lavish manner. She asks the sisters if she can provide a special meal for an upcoming church celebration. The sisters hesitantly agree. When the food arrives from far off regions, consisting of epicurean delights such as turtles for turtle soup and quail and other gourmet treats these simple people are unfamiliar with, the sisters are horrified. Plus, there are several bottle of wine. Wine! Till now, these people have avoided any form of alcohol.

The church members are afraid of what they are getting themselves into. But rather than be impolite, they choose to pray over it and decide that they will get through this ordeal. They’ll eat it, but they just won’t enjoy it. Then, as each course is served with a matching wine, the guests at the feast discover tastes and aromas that ignite the palate, aided by the wine, which causes them to warm up and reunite their friendships.

A member of the party is an officer in the military. He has been everywhere and dined at the finest restaurants – even in France. He begins to tell of a French chef known in her country as one of the best in her profession. Little does he know, or anyone else there, that this is the same woman.

By the end of the meal, friendships are restored, old grievances settled, and Christ is praised. This woman’s meal has brought them together. But the guests are unaware that she was being more than generous. She was also being sacrificial. For she has spent her entire lottery winnings on this feast.

Based on a short story by Isak Dinessen, it is a beautiful tale of devotion and sacrifice, as well as a healing parable where quarreling friends and acquaintances are brought together once they shed their pious austerity. The film urges us not to put our faith into action.

Preview Reviewer: phil Boatwright
Distributor: Pinewood Studios

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: None
Violence: None
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: None
Other: None
Running Time: 110 minutes
Intended Audience: Family

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