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Review: 'Christmas Candle' beams with holiday spirit

Hammy histrionics of a Hallmark movie are present, but its message of community and faith shines brighter.

By Martin Tsai

3:30 PM EST, November 21, 2013

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A religious parable wrapped in a holiday gift basket featuring Susan Boyle, "The Christmas Candle" seems destined to be a Hallmark movie of the week. But in spite of the hammy histrionics requisite for the genre, it is not at all a turkey.

Set in the 19th century, the film stars Hans Matheson of "The Tudors" as David Richmond, who left the pulpit for the Salvation Army after losing his religion. The village of Gladbury comes calling for him to fill the opening for vicar in its parish. Curiously, Richmond accepts after not much deliberation, only to be taken aback by the village's widespread superstition over a long-standing legend that every 25 years a candle touched by an angel brings about a miracle. 

You see, unlike the residents of Downton Abbey, the good people of Gladbury are wary of electricity. They would take comfort in knowing that, two centuries later, there would be an entire section devoted to candles at Bed Bath & Beyond. Ever the pragmatist, Richmond hears the hopes and dreams of the village folk like a shopping mall Santa, then mobilizes them to fulfill their own wishes. Indeed, God helps those who help themselves. 

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It's always nice to have an earnest little movie that reminds you of the true spirit of Christmas amid the overwhelming consumerism of holiday shopping. And in spite of its decidedly Christian theme, the film's overarching message about the power of community and faith should resonate across different denominations and beliefs.

"The Christmas Candle." MPAA rating: PG for mild thematic elements. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. In general release.

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