“A lot of people want to serve God,
but only in an advisory capacity.”
How do I explain this Christmas “Miracle” from the Hallmark Channel, debuting at 8 p.m. (Eastern time) Saturday December 5 and starring the wonderful character actress Doris Roberts?
The simple version of this review is: Watch it!
This is the traditional Christmas-movie formula flavored with a big helping of Mary Poppins until a troubled young woman and a troubled young man—and two deeply divided families—well … You can guess what happens, right?
Most of the fun involves Doris Roberts’ portrayal of the unflappable Emily Merkle—better known to the children of the house as “Mrs. Miracle,” the title of Debbie Macomber’s beloved novel. Fans of Doris Roberts enjoyed her as Mildred Krebs in “Remington Steele” and later as Marie Barone in “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
She’s recently turned 79 as 2009 draws to a close and, in my book, she’s still a whole lot of fun to watch on the TV screen, especially in such a delicious part as this magical Mary Poppins of an American nanny. Mrs. Miracle shows up in a flurry of snow and confidence. She cleans up the enormous mess she finds without ever raising her voice beyond a few sincere words of advice. When things get especially tough for these characters, she sighs wearily and—like Mary Poppins—is perfectly willing to toss a little pixie dust. But, beyond that description, I don’t want to spoil the movie’s surprises.
The challenge—we’ll call it a challenge and not a problem, because this movie really is a bright Christmas star for the holidays—is the removal of religious references from Macomber’s novel. And, that’s not all—there are some sharp dramatic edges in the original tale that have been softened as well. It’s as if the creative team behind the movie wanted to narrow the dramatic scope of the film in the hope of making it more palatable to a wider range of viewers.
Macomber is the executive producer of the film, so she clearly approved the revisions. But, for example—anyone who is familiar with the novel knows that it opens with the troubled young father angrily calling one of his twin sons: “You little shit!”
That’s right—the “S word” appears on the first page of this otherwise evangelically themed novel. In fact, foul language is a significant issue in the book’s opening section. Macomber’s antidote, of course, is the underlying warmth of Christian traditions just waiting for the characters to rediscover them. Here’s another example: C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is a traditional family favorite in the novel—just waiting on a bookshelf in all its tattered glory to be rediscovered.
These are Christian-tinged miracles in the book.
The Hallmark movie changes that to a neutral Disney-style sprinkling of pixie dust.
I think the strategy works, overall. I don’t think these changes will matter that much to Macomber fans. The film’s clever affirmation of love, forgiveness and the potential of rebirth are a sufficiently potent spiritual message here. Along the way to that dramatic destination, it’s pure pleasure to watch Doris Roberts pursue her craft as a character actress in her late 70s—and the pixie dust certainly makes us smile along with her.
Before you get ready to Email me and complain about what I just said, stop and think for a moment! In the novel, chapters open with words of wisdom from Mrs. Miracle and one of her favorite aphorisms is:
“God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.”
I love that line. It doesn’t appear in the movie, but I think it’s a perfect way to explain why ReadTheSpirit highly recommends this new Christmas film! Don’t forget, it debuts at 8 p.m. Saturday December 5 (Eastern Time in the U.S.) so mark your calendar or set your recorder!
Here’s a link to the Hallmark preview page, to learn more.
AND, please don’t forget our appeals all this week to help us rethink the holidays!
Enjoy our in-depth conversation with writer Ace Collins, in which Ace stuns readers by celebrating the commercialization of Christmas.
And, join in our special appeal on Tuesday to tell us about your own beloved holiday books and movies!
FINALLY, the photo below shows Doris Roberts with Debbie Macomber.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)