Despite movies being my business, I had never heard of A Unicorn for Christmas before seeing that it was opening at my local AMC. I'd seen no trailers, gotten no PR emails, received no screening invitations. It just kind of magically appeared. Intrigued, I decided to check it out, figuring it would likely be either a nice little family film or an amusingly awful piece of WTF-ery. The movie is much more the former than the latter, although a fundamental lack of dramatic thrust limits any appeal it might have. While not a faith-based film, it has that same quality of having been made for people who don't want to see anything even remotely challenging or offensive.
Well, okay, there is that one joke where the unicorn farts and sparkles fly out of its butt.
Andrew Campbell (Chuck Wicks) is a failed restaurateur who moves wife Corrine (Sunny Mabrey), son Max (Christian Finlayson), and unicorn-obsessed daughter Izzy (Abby James Witherspoon) from New York to Georgia. He's purchased a farm there and intends to go into the vegetable-growing business. Soon after arriving, Izzy meets a woman, Ms. Carol (Catherine Dyer), who owns a pony. Snowflake, as Izzy dubs it, is actually a unicorn, but none of the adults can see it, so they think she's crazy.
The Campbells end up running a petting zoo at the annual Christmas carnival, run by the money-hungry Horace (Ed Marinaro). Snowflake becomes the star attraction, popular with all the local kids, who recognize a unicorn when they see one. Horace decides he can make more cash hauling the creature around from town to town and charging $15 a pop to see it, so he kidnaps Snowflake. Izzy gets wise to the plan and tries to prevent it.
That's as dramatic as A Unicorn for Christmas gets. The movie doesn't even attempt to wring suspense from the kidnapping scenario. No danger exists for the animal, and the rescue effort contains zero action of any sort. Instead, everything just sort of happens lackadaisically, with no true sense of jeopardy. Still, it's Die Hard compared to the subplot about Corrine's efforts to start her own business selling homemade kombucha.
The movie's attempts at humor are similarly soft. That fart joke and a scene where Max feels nauseous on a carnival ride are as funny as things get, unless you count the small supporting performance from a little girl who repeatedly stumbles over her lines. Even the visual effects are low-key. Snowflake's horn glows slightly, and a CGI rainbow is emitted from it two or three times. The creature isn't particularly magical other than that.
A Unicorn for Christmas is, as you can doubtlessly tell, pretty innocuous stuff. You're not going to feel tense, or roll out of your seat laughing, or experience the sense of wonder you'd get in something like E.T. Not much is really Christmas-y either, so you don't get the yuletide glow the best holiday movies provide. The picture is not unpleasant to sit through, though, thanks to decent, earnest performances (especially from Ed Marinaro) and the plot's overall inoffensiveness. I've certainly seen far, far worse films this year.
Overall, the two words that best describe A Unicorn for Christmas are "nice" and "bland."
out of four
A Unicorn for Christmas is unrated, but contains mild rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.