Movie review: ‘The Christmas Candle’ never fully flickers to life

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICENovember 22, 2013 

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Hans Matheson and Samantha Barks star in “The Christmas Candle,” a holiday legend about a magical candle that will bring a miracle to one person on Christmas Eve.

  • THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE

    ••

    Rated: PG for mild thematic elements. Starring: Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Lesley Manville, Susan Boyle. Director: John Stephenson. Running time: 100 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 in Boise, Edwards 14 in Nampa, Majestic 18 in Meridian.

Filmed in Gloucestershire, England, “The Christmas Candle” is a tale of a village — Gladbury — that has held onto a tradition that says every 25 years, the local candle maker produces one batch that holds the magical candle that an angel ensures will grant the owner his or her heart’s desire.

In a poor town where “the people are disheartened,” that’s a nice thing to cling to.

But that 200-year-old tradition is pooh-poohed by the new preacher, Rev. David Richmond, played by Hans Matheson. It’s 1890 and England is going electric. There’s no “magical, wish-granting angel,” he preaches. And the locals are appalled.

Rev. Richmond was recruited from the Salvation Army, so eventually he sees the need to at least replace the “miracle” with something else to cling to.

As the townsfolk pass on their Christmas candle wishes to the candle-making Haddingtons (Lesley Manville, Sylvester McCoy), Rev. Richmond reads those wishes and attempts to make them come true.

Even the caretakers of the church parsonage, played by James Cosmo and Susan Boyle — yes, that Susan Boyle, of “Britain’s Got Talent” — could use a miracle.

The performances — save for Boyle, a better singer than actress — are uniformly fine, if limited.

Director John Stephenson comes from the animation and special effects realm, so the angel effect and miracle candle effects are well- conceived. And the entire production is burnished to the point of handsome. He had the makings here of a “Masterpiece Theatre” Christmas production.

But neither he nor the screenwriters are able to turn Max Lucado’s novel into anything more than pablum — best served to babies and the undiscriminating. No fruitcake for us this Christmas.

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