Scrolling through Amazon Prime looking for Christmas movies in early December 2020, I came across a title that looked like a throwback film, The Wrestling Christmas Miracle. Having just decided to do a Christmas movie review every day in the month of December, I looked up the film and found it had a prequel – so I scoured the internet and found A Karate Christmas Miracle streaming for free on tubitv.com which is owned by Fox. So, time to watch the prequel.
The film was released in 2019 and was written by Ken Del Vecchio, Julie Kimmel and David Landau. In addition to a co-writing credit, it was directed by Kimmel. It tells the story of 10-year-old Jesse Genesis (Mario Del Vecchio, son of the writer) whose dad disappeared after a shooting at a theater in their New Jersey town.
When the initial newspaper clippings of the incident whizzed by, including the perpetrator being dressed as a clown, the name “Aurora” flashed on the screen. I immediately thought this might be a take on what happened in Aurora, Colorado with James Holmes dressed as The Joker. It wasn’t until further in the film until I learned this was just a coincidence and the “Aurora” mentioned in the newspaper articles was the daughter of the theater owner (played by Eric Roberts) who was just given ownership the day before Christmas. I would have to ask the writer if it was a nod or not.
Anyway, Jesse has decided to make it his mission, his “homework,” to get his black belt in karate in the 12 days before Christmas, believing his dad will come home if he does. He starts out as a yellow belt. We have to suspend our disbelief in a lot of ways in this film, but in particular, it takes 6 months of training before you can test from yellow to an orange belt, 6 more months of training as an orange belt to get green, 9 months as green for blue, 12 months as blue for brown, and another 18 months as a brown to test for black – at a minimum. And Jesse has 5 days.
We find out after the shooting at the theater, his dad, Bob disappeared. Eventually, his mom, Abby, (Mila Milosevic) goes to see a college professor and former psychic, Elizabeth, played by Julie Mccullough at Caldwell University. How did she know to track down Elizabeth? Abby met Elizabeth when she was a teenager and was told her future.
Jesse starts to have nightmares, mirroring Elizabeth’s visions. Through a series of nightmares and subsequent daily karate belt tests, we get the feeling Jesse’s dreams are real. Elizabeth then meets her former fiancé in a bar, whom she had a vision of dying and broke off the engagement 20 years ago, which proves her visions may not actually come true.
Jesse starts to piece together more and more of the story, having visions of the names of people involved in the theater, including its former owner played by Martin Kove. Then, Elizabeth has a vision of Bob in the hospital visiting Aurora, which can’t be true. Can it?
Jesse is almost done with his countdown to Christmas homework list and it is Christmas day. After taking a vow of silence in the days before, his last task for his black belt is to break a board in one shot on Christmas Day. He does, and guess who walks in the sliding glass door immediately after? His dad. The end.
According to IMDB, Kenneth Del Vecchio is a lawyer and author who stepped down from being a judge after it was suggested his films may promote his political views. His law background is evident throughout the film as Elizabeth is a law professor and some of the examples throughout the film mention hypothetical law questions around the subject of Christmas. He is also chair of the Hoboken International Film Festival. As mentioned in the beginning, the young star of the film, Mario, is his son. Mario is a good choice for the film, and the sequel, since Mario is an accomplished karate student and wrestler. He does a very good job, although the nightmare scenes sometimes look more like he is doing “the wave.”
The beginning of the film had me a little worried. There were times it seemed as though one of the actors had a lavalier (good) mic and the other had only had a boom microphone. This, combined with a large depth of field, made the film look especially low budget starting out. However, as the film progresses, you lose sight of the budget and become intrigued by the story. Even though it is predictable since the word “Miracle” is in the title, the journey to get there is entertaining.
I would recommend the film to anybody with kids who love karate and are looking for a good, free Christmas film the family can enjoy together. You can stream it free on tubitv.com at https://tubitv.com/movies/509807/a-karate-christmas-miracle.