12 Dog Days Till Christmas

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
12 Dog Days Till Christmas Movie Poster Image
Well-intentioned tale about foster child has heavy themes.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Difficult problems inspire people to come up with creative solutions. You can't make people take things they don't want.
 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack is clever and charming when he wants to be but also hot-headed and mean when he feels threatened. He's kind and affectionate with his younger foster siblings. Ryan is thoughtful and reflective and a bit shy. Jack helps her come out of her shell. Blair is firm but encouraging. Art is a dedicated probation officer who goes beyond his job description to help people who deserve a chance.

Violence

A dog is hit by a car but survives. The accident isn't shown. The shelter's funding runs out at Christmas and any dogs left will go to the city pound where euthanasia is inevitable. Jack yells at a shop keeper who interrupts Jack's sidewalk sales pitch. When he loses the sale, Jack sets fire to the shopkeeper's sign. Jack gets angry and throws some boxes around. Jack's interactions with his real parents are not specified but it's implied that the situation was pretty bad given that social services took Jack from them.
 

Sex

Jack wants to date Hillary. Jack and Ryan kiss quickly.

Language

"Shove it."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jack's mother, who has been sober for three days, is preparing to get drunk on malt liquor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 12 Dog Days Till Christmas tackles serious matters in a simplistic but appealing TV movie-style format. A clever and charming boy about to age out of the foster care system deals with the disappointments of his alcoholic mother, jailed father, and the last of a series of revolving foster homes. His basic decency shines through as his devoted probation officer supports and encourages him. But even a great job at an animal shelter can't eliminate his understandable anger issues. He and the girl he likes kiss quickly. A dog is hit by a car but survives. The accident isn't shown. The shelter's funding runs out at Christmas and any dogs left will go to the city pound where euthanasia is inevitable. Jack yells at a shop keeper who interrupts Jack's sidewalk sales pitch. When he loses the sale, Jack sets fire to the shopkeeper's sign. Jack's mother, who has been sober for three days, is preparing to get drunk on malt liquor.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNathaniel L. December 25, 2017

Loved it

Very cute movie with a great theme. It's a TV movie, so it has some issues with pacing and acting, but it was still very good.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In 12 DOG DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS, Jack (Vincent Giovagnoli) has been living in foster homes most of his 17 years because his mother is an alcoholic and his father is in jail. Jack is smart, charming, and persuasive, but the anger stemming from his abandonment always simmers beneath the surface, ready to bubble up at the slightest provocation. After a run-in with a local shopkeeper he is reassigned by his supportive probation officer Art (Reginald VelJohnson) to work at an animal shelter. He immediately seems to identify with the adorable abandoned animals, all lost souls, like him, looking for family. Jack and shy-girl volunteer Ryan (Grainne McDermott) immediately dislike each other, guaranteeing that they'll find their way to each other by movie's end. When the shelter's benefactor announces she can no longer foot the bills, Ryan, Jack, and the others swing into persuasive mode to help place the least adoptable dogs before they face doom in the city shelter.

Is it any good?

This movie has something to say about second chances, but the addition of a few more experienced actors, like Vel Johnson, would have improved this movie enormously. Its heart is in the right place though as it emphasizes the bad hand dealt to so many innocent children whose only crime was being born to addicts or irresponsible shirkers. The movie paints a fairly complimentary view of foster care, a system often portrayed in the media as seedy, mercenary, and sometimes downright cruel. The foster parents portrayed here are good people doing their best to help kids in need. Jack and his foster siblings are housed in a large, decent home governed by decent grownups who set rules and truly seem to care. Never having been adopted, and on the verge of aging out of the system, Jack feels alienated and alone. Worst of all, he fears that he will one day be as unreliable and hopeless as his mother. With the support of a saintlike probation officer who sees the good in Jack, the boy begins to develop empathy for others as he works with unlucky dogs and the shelter employees who open their hearts to him. Shakespeare is quoted and reading books is viewed as a fun and productive activity. What 12 Dog Days Till Christmas lacks in polish and Hollywood finesse, it makes up for in good intentions and generosity. In a nice reversal of media stereotypes, a solid, middle-class black family takes on a troubled white boy, sharing with him their love and family values.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about 12 Dog Days Till Christmas' mature themes. Jack is painfully disappointed when his alcoholic mother promises to meet him for lunch but, once again, doesn't show. When he acts out his anger afterwards, do you think his friends treat him fairly? Why or why not?

  • Jack seems to have a decent but distant relationship with his foster parents. Why do you think someone with his background might keep his distance emotionally?

  • Do you think the movie deliberately compares unadoptable shelter dogs to Jack's situation as an abandoned child?  Why?

  •  

  • Did the movie's title and box art make you think this was a more lighthearted movie?

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

For kids who love the holidays

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate