Movie review: Hammy storytelling douses 'Christmas Candle'

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The sap rises fast and flows freely in "The Christmas Candle," a holiday drama that melds some charming performances with an unsubtle religious message.

In 1890, the Rev. David Richmond (Hans Matheson) arrives at his new job as minister in the rundown English village of Gladbury, where the townsfolk believe in a long-standing legend that once every 25 years an angel blesses a candle, which is given to the person most in need of an answered prayer.

Richmond pooh-poohs the superstition and angers the candlemaker, Mr. Haddington (Sylvester McCoy, formerly of "Doctor Who"), with plans of installing electric light in the church. But as he meets his parishioners — from the beautiful Emily ("Les Misérables' " Samantha Barks) with an ailing father (John Hannah) to the parish caretaker's wife (singing star Susan Boyle) — he discovers that everybody is in need of a miracle.

The cast, which includes English stalwarts like Lesley Manville and James Cosmo, add moments of wit to this treacly story (based on Max Lucado's novel), but director John Stephenson overloads the story with heavy-handed plotting and a smothering musical score. Even if you believe in miracles, "The Christmas Candle" is a reminder that, in movies, miracles are more often the product of lazy screenwriting and cheap special effects.; —


'The Christmas Candle'

Opens Friday, Nov. 22, at area theaters; rated PG for mild thematic elements; 100 minutes.