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Featured DVD Review: Gift of the Magi

October 27th, 2011

Gift of the Magi - Buy from Amazon

Gift of the Magi is a TV movie based on the short story of the same name by William Sydney Porte, which was published under the name O. Henry. It has been turned into a number of movies, short films, etc. previously, but will this modern adaptation keep the spirit of the story while adapting it for modern audiences.

The Movie

Marla Sokoloff and Mark Webber star as Della and Jim Alexander, a recently married couple who just moved into their first home and are about to spend their first Christmas as husband and wife. They are also looking to find the perfect gifts for each other. Della tries to find a steering wheel for the 1955 Chevy Bel Air, which is the car Jim has been restoring. Jim in turn decides to get Della a wide angle lens and a zoom lens for her old camera. They would be perfect gifts, but they cost a lot. They both have just enough set aside for Christmas gifts, at least they did till their car was stolen. The new car is a little more expensive than they can afford, but they both saved up money for Christmas and they figure having a car is more important than giving each other gifts this year and both spend all their rainy day money on the new vehicle.

At least the plan is to not give gifts this year. Immediately both Della and Jim go back on their word and plan to get each other the perfect gifts regardless of the promises they made to each other. Of course, this means getting extra money without letting the other know about it. Della gets a second job at a hotel, but has trouble explaining why she's late every night. This puts stress on the relationship and as Christmas nears, Jim sees Della go into a hotel with a strange man, it looks like their short marriage could be over.

There are a few more plot details than that. For instance, Della plays match-maker for their two friends, Renee (Megan Riordan) and Ian (Tomas O'Suilleabhain). Unfortunately, those parts felt like filler for a movie that had trouble filling 85 minutes based on the 2000-word short story. Other changes to the story also didn't help. Jim thinks Della is cheating on him, which makes at least a little sense given what he sees and how she has been acting, but it does hurt the movie. The story is about two people willing to sacrifice what they hold most dear in order to show their love to their spouse. Getting into fights over accusations of infidelity doesn't fit with that theme, as it makes the central couple less sympathetic. It's not like the two leads have great chemistry together. In fact, a lot of the acting is a little stiff.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD.

The Verdict

Gift of the Magi only sporadically lives up to its source material and unless you are a fan of the two leads, it's best to track down other adaptations of the short story. Even then, the featureless DVD is limited to a rental.

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