Break out the hot cocoa and fuzzy themed socks, folks, because it’s time for a Christmas movie marathon. This week, Amanda gives you the rundown on five festive horse flicks.
The Horses of McBride (2012)
Based on a true story, this one hits all the right notes. We have a plucky protagonist willing to do anything to save two horses trapped on a mountain, a family farm in financial trouble and an inspirational speech in the final few minutes that could make even the Grinch a little watery-eyed.
The pace, acting and cinematography of this movie are all well done, though I question the screenwriters’ need to pit the “country folk” against the “rich vegetarian equestrians.” The dire situation itself was the real antagonist of the film, so I don’t think we needed this unnecessary drama.
Behind the scenes there was another rescue operation. Wrangler John Scott rescued two emaciated horses with the help of the SPCA to star in the film. They gained weight during production and were eventually adopted.
3.5 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes.
Joy and Hope (2020)
A story about two sisters hosting a “handsome stranger” on their ranch for the holidays? Vivica A. Fox, a Christmas movie staple, is listed in the cast? And it was written and directed by someone named Candy Cain? Sign me up!
Okay, so despite what looked to be a classic holiday movie in the making, this movie is like making a trifle with a layer of beef sautéed with peas and onions between your lady fingers and custard. It’s bad, y’all.
Discounting the awkward dialogue and bad acting, the story itself is too muddled. Hope, with her fear of leaving the ranch and unrequited love with childhood best friend Gabe, is all we really need. So I’m not sure why half of the screen time, much less the IMDB blurb, is spent on Joy and the writer from New York. It’s like a really bad two-for-one deal on Black Friday.
1 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes.
All Good Things (2019)
Two Manhattanite sisters are sent to Gramma and Pop Pop’s ranch for the holidays after being told their Mom has to work. It’s the classic fish-out-of-water tale mixed with the well-worn horse movie fallback, an abandonment trope. To top it all off, Gramma is Morgan Fairchild and Pop Pop is Henry Spencer from the TV show Psych!
The first half of this movie has plenty of moments that might stir a few laughs as the two millennials navigate a farm with — GASP! — no wifi and no cell signal. The acting is good enough and the plot thickens when we find out the farm is facing foreclosure. Not that that’s a surprise, because there isn’t a horse movie in existence that doesn’t have a family farm facing foreclosure. It does make the ending quite predictable.
My biggest complaint, though, is that this Christmas movie didn’t really feel very Christamassy. The farm was sunny and green and, to be honest, I don’t remember Gramma or Pop Pop even having decorations. Maybe there is something to the “snow” that Hallmark uses that we all know is just bubbles because, well, it looks like bubbles?
2 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes.
A Heartland Christmas (2010)
Billed as a stand-alone movie, this flick is definitely better if you’ve watched Heartland. In fact, because it fits somewhere between seasons 3 and 4 of the series, I felt a wave of nostalgia watching characters that have long since grown up on one of Canada’s longest running TV shows.
Lou’s rampant OCD as she waits for Peter to come home. Mallory’s whiney neediness as she longs for her absentee parents. Grandpa and Tim’s bromantic banter. Ty, willing to do anything to help Amy help horses. These characters feel like your favorite sweater or cozy blanket on a cold night.
The movie itself is good and not dissimilar to The Horses of McBride. The main difference is that, in the style of Heartland, it isn’t really about the horses trapped on a snowy mountain. It’s about people. Amy, in the way that only she can, diagnoses the drama behind the drama and the community band together just in time to save the day.
3 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes.
The Small One (1978)
Okay, so this is absolutely one of the saddest Christmas cartoons ever made, but I absolutely love it.
An older, smaller donkey, beloved by his boy, has to be sold. After being sent to the city alone, the pair face one horror after another before the tale comes to a satisfying and surprising conclusion. Read my full review here and be sure to bring the tissues.
4 out of 4 Golden Horseshoes.
Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @uechironan.