It's not a bad movie, which is Appellate Judge James A. Stewart's first holiday miracle.
"You've been waiting for some kind of miracle, haven't you?"
In the holiday season, nearly everybody looks for some kind of miracle, often in the form of TV movies. The Horses of McBride then would be a natural story to tell—and watch—when December rolls around. It's based on a true story about a horse rescue.
Rancher Matt Davidson (Aidan Quinn, Elementary) and son Kenny (Edward Ruttle, Hot Tub Time Machine) go out to rescue some humans who've had a mishap in the cold surroundings of McBride, a northern British Columbia town that's even out of Internet range. They spot two horses stuck in a snowdrift on Renshaw Mountain. When Matt's daughter Nicki (MacKenzie Crook, Christmas in Wonderland) hears the story, she wants to go rescue them. The SPCA will pay for a helicopter rescue, which could cost up to $15,000 Canadian, but only if a doctor deems the horses likely to survive.
Nicki nurtures the horses until the decision can be made. It doesn't go favorably, but Nicki has an idea: dig a three-kilometer trench so the horses can walk to safety. With wolves out there and an avalanche threatening, it doesn't seem like there's much hope—but it's the Christmas season. Mother Avril (Kari Matchett, Covert Affairs) is busy prepping for the holidays as all this happens. Just to add a little more drama, Matt is broke and has to look into selling the ranch.
Cast also include Scott Hylands (Night Heat) and Lloyd Robertson, real-life Canadian newsman.
It's sappy, but director Anne Wheeler (whose credits include a few holiday titles like Christmas on Chestnut Street) is clear on the concept of sappy and unafraid to show it. There's a hinted-at romance between Nicki and a local TV reporter, but the focus stays on the horses and the rescue. Wheeler concentrates on the story of a community rallying to do something good and the story of a father learning to respect his daughter's inner strength.
There's some cheerfully hokey dialogue ("You're a survivor, aren't you? I see it in your eyes," Nicki tells a horse), but the movie generally works. That seems like a no-brainer, but in past holiday seasons, I've seen TV movies that couldn't get the basics right. The actors playing father and daughter have enough rapport to carry it off. There's a scary encounter with wolves, but nothing else that should upset parents.
As you'd expect, northern British Columbia (played here by Alberta) looks spectacular, with mountain vistas which you'll appreciate, at least from your warm TV den. Any horses in the audience might be a little discombobulated at the thought of being stuck in it, though.
One word gives away the fact that there's no U.S. TV sale scheduled: Young people go away to "university," not "college." That word probably would have been changed in a script destined for some U.S. cable network.
The only extra is a trailer.
If you're so dead-set against holiday movies that It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street wouldn't change your mind, The Horses of McBride isn't one you'd want to find under your tree or on your TV. However, if you like animal stories, are searching for a sweet holiday film, and The Horses of McBride crosses your path, take a look. It's a safe stocking stuffer, and worth a stream on Amazon (where I've spotted it) or a Redbox rental.
No coal in the stocking for this one. Not guilty.
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