Film and action summary
Jessica Riggs and her family are going through a difficult time. Her father, John, is struggling to make ends meet and is considering letting Jessica live with her aunt. Jessica strongly believes in Santa Claus, and when she finds a mysterious reindeer in the forest, she thinks it might be a joker, one of Santa’s reindeer. She decides to take care of Prancer, but hides him from her father. However, when Jessica’s belief in Prancer’s identity becomes a new story, Jessica and her family are suddenly confronted with a lot of unwanted attention. The question remains: how does Jessica Prancer get back to Santa Claus in time?
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Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell) is an 8-year-old girl raised by her widow father John (Sam Elliot) and elder brother Steve (John Joseph Duda). They live on an apple farm that’s going through a difficult time. John had financial problems and counted on the help of his sister-in-law Sarah (Rutanya Alda). John could be facing foreclosure on his farm.
One day Jessica walks home after a Christmas present. She sees a plastic reindeer falling from a Christmas ornament hanging above the main street. She concludes that it is the Joker from the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as The Night Before Christmas.
In the meantime, John is worried that he won’t be able to take care of his children, especially Jessica. He’s discussing a plan with Sarah to let Jessica stay with him temporarily. Jessica heard part of the conversation, but not everything. Later Jessica and her best friend Carol Wetherby (Ariana Richards) are sledding and accidentally knocking over flowers in a house that belongs to a widow named Mrs. Wetherby. McFarland (Cloris Leachman) is the owner. After tobogganing Jessica goes home and finds a live deer in the forest. The deer runs away into darkness.
The next day Jessica walks home from school and discovers deer tracks she follows in the forest. She’s afraid of the shot, but she keeps following the trail. John’s worried about his daughter and goes looking for her. He finally found him, but he almost hit a deer that was on the road at the time. John notices that the deer is wounded and decides to kill it with his gun. Jessica begs her father not to shoot the deer, and during their quarrel the deer disappears.
Jessica later dreamt about Prancer when she woke up shocked by the scene of a plastic deer falling down the main street. She hears a sound outside and sees that the window of the barn is open. She investigates and discovers that a wounded reindeer is now inside together with the other animals in the family. Because she’s afraid her father would kill her again, she takes the deer to the barn. Jessica thinks the deer is the real joker and decides to take care of it. She calls the veterinarian Dr. Orel Benton (Abe Vigoda), who doesn’t want to help her, but eventually arrives at the farm and treats the animal.
Some time later, Jessica goes to visit Santa Claus (Michael Constantine) in the mall. She gives Santa a Polaroid picture of a reindeer in the mall and tells him she has a joker. She also gives Santa a letter to the mall to give to the real Santa for Christmas. In the mall, Santa Claus takes pictures and writes to the editor of the local newspaper, thinking it will be an interesting story. Meanwhile, Jessica’s going to see Mrs. McFarland and apologize for knocking over the flowers. She asks the widow if she has a job to earn some money to buy oatmeal for Prancer. Mrs. McFarland agrees to pay her if she cleans a room in the house. They became friends during the meetings.
Meanwhile, a newspaper editor draws from Jessica’s faith and writes an article which is then read by a local pastor (Walter Charles) during one of his sermons. Jessica realizes that her secret is now known to the entire city. She’s mad at Carol because she thinks she’s the one who told the Reverend. She ends her friendship with Carol, although she later finds the story in the newspaper.
At the same time, Prancer accidentally releases all the animals from the barn, and John is forced to pick them up. While John picks up the animals, Prancer enters and tears down the house. Some time later, John read an article about Prancer just before a group of city dwellers appeared on the farm, eager to see the famous Prancer. John grabs his gun and threatens to shoot the animal. He is stopped by a local butcher who offers to buy Prancer, which attracts John’s attention because the family needs money. Jessica is afraid that the butcher will kill Prancer and sell his meat. She runs in the night to save Prancer. The butcher decides to keep Prancer as a bargaining chip for his Christmas tree business. Steve stalks his sister and tells her that he loves her even though they are fighting. Jessica tries to open Prancer’s cage, but he falls and hurts his head.
Jessica, wounded, is taken home, where she stays in her room and gets discouraged. John visits her and she asks him to read her a story. After this story John tells his daughter that times can be long. He tells Jessica that he can accept the loss of the farm, but he can’t accept the loss of her. John tells his daughter he won’t send her to Sarah. John suggests that they take Prancer to Antler Ridge, which he thinks is the perfect place for Santa Claus to pick him up.
The locals gather at Jessica’s window and start singing to cheer her up. John and Jessica pick up Prancer and bring him to Entler Ridge. Once there, the shy deer disappears from sight. John and Jessica follow his trail and notice that they disappear at the foot of a cliff. They hear the sound of the sled’s bells and see a band of light moving towards what they think Santa Claus’ sled is. Jessica says goodbye to Prancer and asks him to remember her. The sledge crosses the full moon and flies over the city, making its first stop of the night at Riggs Farm.
Additional information about the film
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