Prancer (1989)

prancer poster 1989 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Strong acting from a young girl

Young kids and adults might be bored by storyline

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Prancer

Studio:  Cineplex Odeon Films/Nelson Entertainment

Genre(s):  Drama/Family/Seasonal

Release Date(s): November 1, 1989 (Canada)/November 17, 1989 (US)

MPAA Rating:  G


Just my emotionally distant dad and my reindeer

A girl named Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell) is dealing with the loss of her mother and doesn’t find herself connecting to her father (Sam Elliott). When Jessica finds a reindeer that she believes is Prancer, Jessica has to hide Prancer to keep him alive. Jessica writes a letter to Santa Claus about Prancer which makes the local newspaper and turns Prancer into a local celebrity. When Jessica’s father sells Prancer to a meat vender for promotion, and her brother Steve (John Duda) have to free Prancer so he can meet Santa Claus in time for Christmas.

Directed by John D. Hancock, Prancer is a Christmas family movie.  The film was released on November 17, 1989. It was met with average review.

I was too old when the movie came out to be into Prancer.  Back then, I would have been too cool to see the movie…but now, I’m always looking for new Christmas movies.  The film has its drawbacks, but its message is solid.


Santa will pay a hefty ransom for you, deer.

The film is a bit of an odd movie. The movie goes for realism. Sam Elliott’s life is kind of falling apart after the death of his wife, and he’s considering sending his daughter off “for her own good”. There are times when it appears that the deer is going to be shot or put down. This could be a bit intense for younger kids despite the G Rating. It also is a bit odd for a kids’ movie.

The movie really feels like it used Pollyanna as its basis. Jessica changes lives due to her attitude and brings a town together in the process. She coaxes recluse Mrs. McFarland (Cloris Leachman) out of her home and makes her rejoin the community. She finds a common bond with her brother through Prancer, and when she’s injured trying to free the deer, the community rallies to cheer her up.


…and then Prancer went mad, biting the hand that fed him.

Fortunately, Rebecca Harrell is likable as the young star. It isn’t the best movie, but it wouldn’t have worked at all if the actress had been weaker in the role. She’s good in the light scenes, but she actually fares better in scenes that are more challenging. She’s backed up by a nice supporting cast including Sam Elliott as her father struggling to make it alone, Abe Vigoda as the local vet, Cloris Leachman as the town recluse, and friends and schoolmates that include Ariana Richards of Jurassic Park and Christmas Vacation, Roseanne, and Big Bang Theory vet Johnny Galecki.

Prancer is a rather standard fare holiday film. It isn’t the best and kind of has a strange ending (I liked the idea of Prancer plunging to his death off of the cliff since you never are really sure). I was actually rather hoping for a “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” type ending where the town helps continue to believe so you never really know if Santa showed or if it was just the town helping her keep the magic alive. Either way, kids probably would enjoy a more “fun” Christmas movie, and for adults, the film is a bit dull.  Prancer was followed by a straight-to-DVD sequel Prancer Returns in 2001.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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