I love animals and hold a special place in my heart for dogs. I also love cheesy holiday movies that warm the heart. So I kinda figured before even hitting the play button that I would enjoy “Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story”. A cute dog and some holiday cheer. What’s not to like? However I was surprised that this short Christmas special had, in my humble opinion, a unique spin on the Santa Claus mythos. It also presents a genuinely positive message to carry with you throughout the year without being overly sappy.
“Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story” is an Emmy winning 25-minute TV special that originally aired in 1978. The story was cooked up by Joe Camp and Dan Witt with Joe Camp directing. It’s a pretty straight forward story line. Benji, that sensational furry movie star, is on a world wide publicity tour with Cynthia Smith and Patsy Garrett. During the holidays they stop in Switzerland where Benji is to lead a Christmas parade through a quaint town. They are picked up for the paraded by an older gentleman who introduces himself as Kris Kringle. Cynthia and Patsy think his name is just a coincidence till Kris Kringle brings them to meet some friends of his with pointy ears. It turns out Kris Kringle has a broken leg so his elves are trying to train to do the Christmas Eve thing themselves and are a little stressed out. Kris Kringle is hoping Benji can raise their spirits before the big night but instead it’s Kris Kringle’s heart that Benji really lifts. I won’t spoil the ending for you but it does have a very powerful message about love.
This special could easily be regulated to any of those hundreds of Hallmark movies we have seen over the years. Its special effects and production value are certainly not up to what we are used to seeing these days even with straight to TV movies. The prosthetics that the elves wear to give them pointy ears and noses are blatantly obvious as an example. Ron Moody does a pretty good job as Kris Kringle but the rest of the acting is fairly flat. But there are several things that set this holiday special apart from the many others I’ve seen over the years. The first is that they make a special point of acknowledging the other takes on Santa Claus around the world. In fact a large part of the running time involves Kris Kringle showing Patsy and Cynthia how he changes costumes in different countries as well changing modes of transportation in order to fit the customs of that culture. In fact the big song and dance number at the end is all about how Santa is whatever he needs to be for the children all over the world. Even though the different countries are shown stereo-typically I still don’t remember any Christmas movie that acknowledges Santa adhering to different cultural practices and kind of being a universal figure. In the movies I’ve seen Santa is always Americanized. Santa’s workshop in this story, however, becomes almost a United Nations. The belief in him and magic on Christmas unites people all over the world. It’s a good lesson that we all see things differently but the essence remains the same as long as it’s based in love.
This leads into a message about home being where you find love. I think that’s a very positive message. So many people can’t be home for Christmas or feel like they have no true home or maybe their home doesn’t feel like it should be a home. But the message in this flick is clear. Home is not a place. Instead it’s wherever you find those that love you(furry ones and none furry ones). Love is home and it’s all you need.
Those were two messages that I found very unique in a Christmas special. Also with a 25- minute run time the story doesn’t have any real excess fat or overstay it’s welcome. It gets right to the matter and delivers its message. The resolution may have come a little too quickly but its straight to the point and effective. I respect that in a story. These days stories are so complex that sometimes the essence can get muddled. I like that the messages here are very much distilled. So I recommend this charming little tale. It gives a loving and uniting message quickly and efficiently. And adds a cute pup to boot.
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Credits: Benji’s Very Own Christmas Story is property of ABC, Mulberry Square Productios and Mill Creek Entertainment. Thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment for making this post possible. To pick up a copy of Benji: Very Own Christmas Story for yourself, click here.