Movie review: 'Christmas Candle' an uplifting tale

"The Christmas Candle" is as quaint and old-fashioned as its 1890 English village backdrop.

It proves a faith-based family film can look as good as anything else in the multiplex and that singer Susan Boyle is not quite ready for prime time when it comes to acting.

Based on Max Lucado's novel, the movie is set in the countryside in Gladbury where the villagers believe that every 25 years an angel visits the local candlemaker and touches a single candle. Whoever lights that candle receives a miracle on Christmas Eve.

'The Christmas Candle'

Starring: Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Susan Boyle and Lesley Manville.

Rating: PG for mild thematic elements.

Newcomer and vicar David Richmond (Hans Matheson) denounces the lore as a fairy tale. He tries to bring light to the villagers both literally and figuratively by wiring the church for electricity and asking parishioners, "Does your neighbor need a miracle this Christmas. Why not be that miracle?"

But belief in the candle burns brightly as lives are transformed and faith tested and awakened or reawakened in this story also starring Samantha Barks (Eponine in "Les Miserables") as a skeptic who plans to move to London, John Hannah as her ailing father, Lesley Manville and Sylvester McCoy as the candlemakers, and James Cosmo as the church warden and Ms. Boyle as his wife.

"Christmas Candle," filmed in the United Kingdom and Isle of Man, boasts high production values and an uplifting message about lending a helping hand and keeping hope, belief and the possibility of miracles alive. It makes a few attempts at humor and allows Ms. Boyle to sing briefly. She is far better, as a fledgling actress, in later scenes requiring her to be dour than earlier, giggly ones.

A special effect toward the end isn't as well executed as the rest of the film, and no matter how good it looks, it still feels like an expensive, high-profile TV movie. To its credit, though, it manages to deliver a happy ending for one family without turning a prickly character into a prodigal son and it is truly about Christmas, down to the lighting of Advent candles in addition to the single magical one.

Opens today at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront and Cinemark at Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer near Tarentum.

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:

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