Magic doesn’t have to disappear with Christmas.
Although, it definitely seems like it does. The day my family finally decides it’s time to take down our glowing tree, and all the lights and decorations, I can’t help but feel a little sad, like there’s a sort of hole in my heart now that the holidays have come to end. That’s what January has come to represent in many ways: no more sitting and waiting for cookies to bake, no more listening to Christmas music, no more excitement or surprises as you wonder what presents wait for you under the tree. At least once Christmas Day is over, we’re able to look forward to New Year’s Eve, but as soon as January rolls around, it’s back to work, back to homework, back to that monotonous routine which starts when your alarm goes off at six AM. At least for most people. The magic and wonder that comes with December is seemingly gone.
But it doesn’t have to.
Magic isn’t just sparkly fairy dust or spells cast by wizards. Magic can be found almost anywhere, as long as you’re willing to look hard enough, but sometimes we just need a reminder, and that’s okay. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of five films that keep the magic of the holidays alive for me, and I hope they do for you too.
There’s a reason why fairy tales continue to withstand the test of time, and Disney’s live action version of the 1950s film is no exception. Starring Lily James, Richard Madden and Cate Blanchett, this film effortlessly brings one of Walt Disney’s classic stories to life. Beauty is essentially embedded in every aspect of the production, including the cinematography, the special effects, costumes, in the chemistry between the characters and in the story itself. Director Kenneth Branagh reminds us that though magic is a supernatural force, it is found within everyday acts of kindness, personal courage, and the love we give to others, even those who wish us harm. Cinderella is also a love story. Ella and the Prince’s romance illustrates a healthy relationship, and ultimately highlights the best part of humanity: our ability to love and accept. Aside from the fact that the film is visually pleasant and auditorily wonderful, this particular fairy tale resonates with audiences in any decade due to its lighthearted nature and happy ending. Truthfully, when those January days are long and dark, there’s nothing that a good fantasy feature cannot fix. This film allows us to see the world not always as it is, but what it can be as long as we let ourselves believe in a little magic.
The Proposal (2009)
Two words: Sandra Bullock. She always brings it. Any film she’s in is guaranteed to have audiences crying from laughter or on the edge of their seat with elation. The Proposal is one of those underrated rom-coms that’s old, having been released ten years ago, but definitely gold. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds make a formidable team. Their chemistry and relationship trope, which shifts from antagonistic work colleagues to lovers, as well as the journey they go on together throughout the film is nothing short of enjoyable. Their banter is remarkably scripted, and did we mention Betty White? She plays Reynold’s Grandma Annie and she will put smile on your face with her endearing quirks, no doubt about it. The importance of family is at the forefront of Anne Fletcher’s feature, and there is no better medicine for those January blues that are sure to creep in on you than family, and when you have family, you’ve got magic.
The Greatest Showman (2017)
My mom always tells me that when people sing like there’s nobody in the room, that means they’re happy. Aside from the uplifting and inspiring story, loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum, an American showman, The Greatest Showman’s soundtrack, and by extension its lyrics, are arguably the best part of the film. Hugh Jackman leads an all-star cast in this movie musical extravaganza, and when it’s playing on screen, you can’t help but stand up and sing along. The songs are as relatable as the plotline, and really, can it get more magical than the circus? A spectacle such as the one Jackman’s character eventually comes to build, is possibly the closest thing to magic in real life. Director Michael Gracey captures the spirit and wonder found during the holidays and channels it into a piece of entertainment that is good for all occasions. Hard work and believing in yourself are subtle forms of magic that float all around us, and with those in tow, we can soar to new heights and do amazing things. No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else. After all, the magic of Christmas doesn’t come and go with the holidays. Rather, it’s living inside you, just waiting to burst out, and this film will undoubtedly let it shine through during those blustery winter days.
It’s no secret how good Disney movies are, so it’s no surprise that another one has made this list. Zootopia quickly began one of the company’s most successful original films, raking in over a billion dollars and snagging the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Now if that isn’t enough to convince you how magical and how perfect this film is, just wait, there’s more. At first glance, one might think it’s just another kids’ movie, but that is so far from the truth. Zootopia is relatable and genuine, as it tells the story of rookie cop Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, who has been overlooked for most of her life, due to being a small bunny in a career occupied by dozens of larger creatures. The jokes and message appeal to both children and adults alike, and every time you watch it, you discover something new. There’s something about animations that’s inherently magical, and they can’t help but leave viewers with a sense of confidence and happiness. The animals are adorable and the storyline revolves around an original mystery that’s just straight-up fun. Not to mention that Nick Wilde, a fox, and Judy’s partner, voiced by Jason Bateman, is my spirit animal. His sarcastic sense of humor nicely compliments Judy’s sweet and optimistic nature. Zootopia is a film that will bring the magic of adventure back into your home.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Last but not least, I thought it only fitting to end this list with a bang. Jake Kasdan’s remake of the 1995 classic is a magical film in its own right. Dwayne Johnson leads a stellar cast, who deliver cohesive and believable performances. Though the entire concept and the setting of this film is magical, seeing as it takes place inside a video game, the true magic lies in the bond the characters form with one another. Friendship is the heart and soul of this film; we’re reminded that everyone is going through their own struggles, but we’re not alone and we’re more powerful together than we are alone. Kasdan’s film reels in viewers immediately, and each scene continues to spiral into the next, taking the protagonists on a whirlwind adventure. The dynamic between Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart is one of the many positives about this feature, along with Jack Black’s portrayal of a teenage girl (stereotypical but hilariously on point) and Karen Gillan’s attempts at flirtation, which she does in order for the group to escape the many enemies chasing them throughout the jungles in the video game. Kasdan provides a great escape into an exhilarating world, and what better way to defeat the grey days of January than to turn get lost in the jungles of Jumanji with your closest friends? Because friendship is just as magical as any holiday.
And there you have it. Even though January may feel like the Monday of the new year, I hope these films will, at the very least, put a smile on your face and give you the spark you need to push through. Magic is all around us, you just need to remember it.
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Literature student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), but Canada. She’s deeply in love with popcorn, French fries and chicken mcnuggets. When’s she’s not chugging back on tea, you can most likely find her at the cinema or tucked away in the corner of a bookstore. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, Casino Royale and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95
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