I don't like the holidays.
I know. I know. I'm a minister...I HAVE to like the holidays.
I can't lie, though. Each year, I find myself struggling through the holidays with a mixture of uneasiness, sadness and longing. Having experienced multiple losses over the holidays, including my daughter, I find Christmas to be the most difficult time of the year for me.
While there are Christmas tunes I enjoy, I am most fond of the dark cynicism of the "South Park" Christmas CD.
My most prized Christmas tradition? Each year, I see a horror film on Christmas day.
Have I mentioned that I don't like Christmas?
Of course, I value the religious significance of the holiday, but it is undoubtedly my most challenging time of the year.
Yet, as I was watching "Christmas Is Here Again" in its world premiere as an Official Selection of the 2007 Heartland Film Festival, I became enchanted in the film's innocence, hopefulness, compassion and sense of the holidays the way I wish they could be.
"Christmas Is Here Again," written and directed by Robert Zappia, is an animated, musical journey centering on Sophianna (Madison Davenport). Sophianna is a disabled, yet beautiful and vibrant little girl who lives in an orphanage led by Miss Dowdy (Kathy Bates) who embarks on a journey to save Christmas by finding Santa's (Andy Griffith) magical toy sack that was stolen by the evil Krad (Ed Asner).
"Christmas Is Here Again" has a decidedly retro feel to it, and is likely to be a trip down memory lane for those of us who cherish cold holiday nights in front of a television screen watching Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown and so many more. Whereas so many of today's Christmas specials focus on razzle dazzle, "Christmas Is Here Again" and filmmaker Robert Zappia are content to present a timeless story combined with enchanting characters, wonderful music and a straightforward, feel-good production.
As narrated by Jay Leno, "Christmas Is Here Again" was birthed, according to Zappia, from a bedtime story he'd been told as a child and, as a result, a bedtime story he has told his children. A veteran of the film industry, one day he was sitting with producer Jim Praytor when they both realized that this simple story needed to be shared.
"Christmas Is Here Again" also features fine voice work from Shirley Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Brad Garrett, Norm MacDonald and Colin Ford.
"Christmas Is Here Again" is a wonderful film with lessons about compassion, giving, loyalty and never giving up hope.
For those of you looking to add a new film to your Holiday movie tradition, "Christmas Is Here Again" is an ideal choice for families, children and for Scrooges like myself who, somewhere deep inside, still want to believe.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic