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Saturday, December 20, 2014


I know it seems hard to believe, but we are just five days away from Christmas Day!  Where the heck did the month of December disappear to?

Anyway, we are about ready to kick off Day #20 of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR!  And since today is Saturday, we're going to be featuring another holiday film.

And since this happens to be the final Saturday before the Christmas season, I thought that I would choose a very special holiday movie.

Now, for many of you reading this, this day will likely be the first day of your Christmas vacation.  For kids, it will be two weeks off from school.  And for adults like me, I hope that your holiday schedules allow you to have plenty of time to spend with the people you love most in the world.

But one thing I always remembered about my own school days was that the last day of school before Christmas vacation was almost always considered to be a fun day.  Very rarely did we partake in any geometry lessons, social science studies, or spelling dictations.  We would have holiday treats, special Christmas assemblies, and if time allowed, we were allowed to watch holiday movies in class.

I don't know if schools still do this now, but when I was little it was a lot of fun.

In fact, today's holiday film feature happens to be one of the movies that we watched on the last day of school before Christmas vacation.  If memory serves me, it was fifth grade when I first watched this movie.  Our teacher, Mr. Haskin, rented out the television and VCR (remember those things?), and he played this movie which I admit was a rather whimsical, but sweet film about a little girl who believed in all things Christmas.

Now, everyone knows about the story of Santa Claus.  How he flies around the entire world every December 24 to deliver gifts to every boy and girl in just twenty-four hours.  Well, naturally, Santa Claus has to have help in delivering all of those gifts and keeping his schedule on par, so he has to rely on his team of nine reindeer to guide him on his way.  Naturally, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer is the leader of the pack with his beacon of ruby bathed light showing Santa the way across seven different continents.  But we can't forget all about the other reindeer who pull their weight as well.

Why, where would Santa be without Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen?

Wait.  Why is Prancer bolded and coloured?  Could it be that the movie is all about the third reindeer in Santa's command?

Well, I can't really reveal too much right now, but Prancer most definitely is the name of today's film discussion.  And Prancer happens to be celebrating its silver anniversary this year, having been originally released on November 17, 1989.  The film starred Sam Elliott, Rebecca Harrell, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Ariana Richards, Rutanya Alda, and John Duda.

And this guy.

Now, whether this reindeer is the real Prancer, or a deer pretending to be Prancer...well, that's up to you to decide.  But as the film begins, we learn a lot about the Riggs family, who happen to be struggling this particular holiday season.  The patriarch of the Riggs family, John (Elliott) is in financial and emotional distress.  His wife recently succumbed to a fatal illness a few months ago, and he is in danger of losing his entire farm. 

John has two children.  Steve (Duda) and Jessica (Harrell).  While Sam seems to be adjusting to things as well as he could, Jessica is noticeably having a more difficult time of it.  She thinks about her deceased mother often, thinking about her in Heaven, hoping that one day she will be able to see her again.  In the meantime, Jessica has developed an obsession with Christmas, even going so far as listening to Christmas music in the middle of the summer!

Of course, because "Prancer" is a Christmas film, the film is mostly set during the month of December, and Jessica is walking home after playing an angel in her school play when she witnesses something happen. 

Hanging above her is a Christmas decoration that features Santa on a sled being pulled by his reindeer.  Somehow, the reindeer in the third position falls off of the display and crashes to the street below.  Nobody is hurt thankfully, but Jessica concludes that the reindeer that falls is Prancer, and Prancer falling from the sky symbolizes something very special.  But of course, she doesn't quite know what that is.

She tries to tell her family about what happened, but John is not amused by her stories.  He is worried enough about losing his home and not having the means necessary to continue taking care of his children.  He even discusses sending the children away with his sister-in-law Sarah (Alda). 

Unfortunately, Jessica overhears this conversation and takes off into the woods for distance away from the family.  And it is in these woods that she happens upon a magical sight.

Yes, the reindeer that she had dubbed Prancer suddenly appears to her in the middle of the woods!  The reindeer is forced to flee after hearing a gunshot, but the gunshot also helps alert John to Jessica's whereabouts.

Interestingly enough, the reindeer appears again as John is taking Jessica home.  The reindeer is visibly wounded, as there appears to be a bullet wound on him.  John feels the right thing to do is put the creature out of his misery, which Jessica absolutely protests.  But before John can get out his gun, the reindeer takes off into the woods again.

Now, the whole film is essentially a cat and mouse game, in which Jessica happens to find "Prancer" and vows to nurse him back to health.  She has help from her friend Carol (Richards) in keeping the reindeer a secret, and she guilt trips veterinarian Orel Benton (Vigoda) into helping with treating the reindeer's wounds.  Jessica also befriends an elderly woman, Mrs. McFarlane (Leachman) when she takes on a job cleaning her house to pay for feed for Prancer.

And the only thing on Jessica's Christmas list this year when she goes to visit Santa Claus at the mall is simple.  She hands him a note to give to the real Santa, explaining that he needs to come and collect Prancer before Christmas Eve, as he will need to be there to help Santa deliver toys to all of the girls and boys.

But when the Santa Claus decides to give the letter to the editor of the newspaper, and the letter gets printed in the local paper, it causes everything to go pear-shaped, and what follows in the aftermath forces Jessica and her family to come to some home truths, as well as forces Jessica to try to protect Prancer from harm.

All in all, it happens to be a Christmas film, so you can pretty much guarantee that the ending will be a happy one.  But how it all plays is well worth watching.

And, coming up on Day #21...the end of an era.  Musically speaking.

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