Charlie’s Christmas Wish
Coming home from his last deployment, Sgt. Major JOHN FROST arrives a month early due to a PTSD incident and is happy to be home for Christmas. He finds his wife, JILL and son JIMMY too busy to give him the welcome he anticipates. In his absence, they have adopted a dog – a little dog, CHARLIE, which is not his cup of tea. JILL, owner of JILL’S CAKES AND BAKES, has been struggling to pay the bills and has taken on too many holiday parties for her catering business, and forgets an important wedding. John finds solace with the fellow vets at the Moose Lodge until HANK, a retired Vietnam vet, is found by Charlie having suffered a heart attack and is then discovered to be homeless living in tented camp with CAPT. JACK. John finds his purpose as he rallies friends, family and community to build a new house for the vets and give them a warm Christmas Eve and a new start on civilian life.
The movie is titled Charlie’s Christmas Wish and the wish is this: “I wish everybody had a home for Christmas — two paws and four paws.” It is a story largely told from the vantage point of a little faith-filled Maltese Terrier named Charlie, whose prayer — yes, the dog prays — is answered by a grandfatherly-sounding God at the beginning of the movie when a young boy named Jimmy rescues her from a kennel. From that point forward, little four paws tries to pay it forward.
She outwits two comic-relief bumbling police officers who are trying to get back in the mayor’s good graces by cracking down on pets without leashes. She gets hit by a truck, but emerges from the accident with barely a scratch. As she does this, she stumbles into the heart of the film’s message, which deals with homelessness among the two paws — military veterans, who in trying to avoid being burdensome to others, have built a little tent city out in the woods.
The movie isn’t shy about confronting the viewer with post-traumatic stress disorder, which afflicts many veterans and makes it hard for them to fit in back home after enduring horrors abroad. Even things the rest of us might consider harmless can trigger an episode of PTSD. Jimmy’s father, John, gets a job waiting tables at a restaurant after getting sent home from Afghanistan five weeks early because of “an incident in the barracks.” When he drops a tray of food, causing a loud crash, it’s apparent that routine stresses for the rest of us can be so much more serious for those in whom it may trigger instant flashbacks of nightmare battlefield situations. Even things that are considered helpful — a siren-blaring ambulance rushing somebody to the hospital, for instance — can evoke reactions in those with PTSD
When Charlie goes looking for Hank, a former chief warrant officer, she finds him unconscious, after he’d suffered a mild heart attack in the woods. Her discovery, and ability to lead others to help him, begins the process wherein the community decides to tackle the problem. In the midst of it, however, Captain Jack, an African-American vet whose PTSD is obvious in his uncontrollable twitching — and the fact that only he never changes out of his Army fatigues — delivers a sobering indictment about common efforts to aid the homeless: “I’ve seen enthusiasm before. But once you’re out of sight, it dies back down into see no evil, hear no evil, do nothing.” The Bible says faith without works is dead, but this movie takes it one step further — faith without completed work is as useless as faith without works at all.
Charlie’s Christmas wish is completed when Hank and Captain Jack receive the first two houses, for however long they need them. The movie also seems to send a message that we need not wait for government to answer the problems in our midst; if we come together and work hard in one accord, even the seemingly impossible can be solved.
The movie is a call to action because even a portion of the proceeds from it have been earmarked to help build homes for veterans. As such, it easily merits the Dove-approved Seal for All Ages.
The Dove Take:
Since God spoke through a donkey to restrain a prophet’s madness in the Old Testament, this movie finds it reasonable to take it one step further by working through a little fru-fru dog to try to restrain homelessness in these last days.