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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Prancer Film Review

Prancer was one of my favorite Christmas movies when I was a kid, I don't know how well-remembered it is. It came out in 1989 and was directed by John D. Hancock, written by Greg Taylor. It's about a little girl named Jessica who lives on a rural farm with her widower dad and brother, and she finds an injured reindeer in the woods and is convinced that it is Prancer, one of Santa's reindeer. She takes care of it in the barn, and is trying to save it while keeping it a secret from her dad (despite telling her brother, her best friend, the local vet, and a townswoman). 

I loved this movie as a kid, and I'm trying to think of why. I liked that the father (played by Sam Elliott) was gruff and unsentimental. He loves his kids, but he is a father who doesn't have patience for immaturity, and is more concerned about saving his farm and getting his kids to behave, go to school, and do their chores than be soft with them. I really liked his voice, it felt tough yet comforting at the same time.

Jessica wasn't annoying, she acted like how a real kid would act. Curious, inquisitive, smart, pestering adults, and believing in a mix of fantasy and reality. The actress who played her, Rebecca Harrell, gave her a lot of heart, she didn't seem like a cutesy movie kid. I looked her up, and she is an environmental activist who makes documentaries with her husband about preserving the environment, so that's pretty cool.

Despite the movie being a holiday film and with fantasy elements, it felt realistic to me, grounded in ordinary people living a rural life and just being average. The actors looked very natural in their roles, and it didn't look like "stars" who looked too "pretty" for the small town or out of a Hallmark movie. The other name actors in this movie were Abe Vigoda, Cloris Leachman, and Ariana Richards before she was famous from Jurassic Park.

Roger Ebert states it best as to why this is a good little movie, and phrases it better than I can as to why this movie was special to me as a child: "The best thing about "Prancer" is that it doesn't insult anyone's intelligence. Smaller kids will identify with Jessica's fierce resolve to get Prancer back into action, and older viewers will appreciate the fact that the movie takes place in an approximation of the real world."

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