A California Christmas

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
A California Christmas Movie Poster Image
Holiday wine country romance has love, loss, language.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive role models.

Positive Messages

There's more to life than money. Family history and traditions are valuable and worth preserving. Caring for family is a responsibility. Honesty is essential in relationships.

Positive Role Models

Joseph transforms from a selfish playboy to a generous and caring family man. Callie learns to love again after loss. She struggles with grief and bears responsibility for her mom and little sister as well as their family farm. She's determined to keep the farm afloat. Wendy has opted to die with dignity and enjoy her final days rather than endure more painful treatments. She seems to feel she can finally let go when her daughter is taken care of. Characters seem to practice a Christian faith. Manny exploits an opportunity to live the high life for a few days, but also helps his new friends. Leo is a faithful assistant and friend. Amy is ultimately proud of her son for doing the right thing, even if it was bad for her business.

Violence

Callie's mom is dying of cancer and has refused any further rounds of chemotherapy. She struggles for breath and has little energy, and in one scene she has to be raced to the hospital. She won't live long. Callie's dad and fiancé died in a car crash, which we partially see in flashback scenes. Connor and Joseph get in a fist fight over Callie at the bar, and she breaks it up by threatening them both with a broken glass bottle.

Sex

Joseph's mom says his one skill is getting women to do what he wants. He interacts awkwardly with a woman in his hotel room bed one morning, and he admits he has no intention of calling or seeing her again. He breaks up with another girl, whose bikini-clad photo pops up on his phone, in a voicemail. Connor repeatedly hits on Callie. Callie and Joseph check out each other's bodies. He's topless in several scenes. They kiss several times. In a more intimate scene, they undress from the waist up and presumably have sex, though we only see them lying on top of each other kissing.

Language

"S--t," "hell," "suck," "ass," "crap," "frickin," "dump," "shut up," "idiot."

Consumerism

 Brands seen or discussed include Budweiser, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Brat, Call of Duty, Halo, Goodwill.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink wine in many scenes. Connor gets drunk and violent at the bar where Callie works part-time as a bartender. Callie makes Joseph a stiff drink, and another time she pours them both a shot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A California Christmas is a romantic tale with some light humor as well as some language, modest nudity (topless male), kissing, and the deaths of parents and loved ones. Set in wine country, there's a lot of wine drinking and discussion of wine qualities. There are also scenes in a bar, where the main character works part-time as a bartender, including a scene where one male character, accused of being drunk, starts a fight with another. The romance involves flirtation, some ogling, kissing, and one sex scene where the man takes off the woman's top and bra and they lie down together. Flashbacks show a fatal car crash, and the main character's mother, who also has a younger daughter, is slowly dying of cancer. Language includes "s--t," "hell," "suck," "ass," "crap," "frickin," "dump," "shut up," "idiot."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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

Kid, 11 years old November 9, 2021

Cali Christmas

I am 11 years old about to turn 12, and Im used to all of this stuff in the movie. There is light profanity (but really light) and then like one other matureISH... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMovie_reviewer April 29, 2021

Decent

This movie overall is decent. It’s a good movie, but a little boring at times. Very similar to a hallmark movie but a little inappropriate and some bad language... Continue reading

What's the story?

Joseph (Josh Swickard) is a wealthy playboy with no real responsibility at his mother's (Julie Lancaster) San Francisco firm in A CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS. He's finally given an opportunity to prove himself and earn a major promotion at the company if he can convince a reticent farm owner, Callie (Lauren Swickard), to sell her valuable land in wine country. When he arrives at the farm, Callie and her sister, Hannah (Natalia Mann), mistake him for the new farmhand they were expecting. Posing as Manny in order to gain Callie's confidence, Joseph finds himself slowly warming to the women and their mom, Wendy (Amanda Detmer), who is in the final stages of an incurable cancer. Now he'll have to decide which means more to him -- Callie or closing the deal and getting the promotion.

Is it any good?

A California Christmas is predictable and sometimes falls flat, but it's also an easy watch that will find its fans. Don't go looking for holiday spirit, though, as the Christmas season seems like an afterthought. What's more interesting is the wine country setting, which forms part of the film's resolution and rings truer with these characters than their shenanigans on the farm birthing calves and chasing chickens. An appreciation for wine stays present in the connoisseur characters of Leo and Manny, whose sweet male bonding feels like it really wanted to be a romance.

Meanwhile, real-life married couple Josh and Lauren Swickard have obvious chemistry and they both look great on screen, a reality they exploit in a bunch of early scenes where he's topless and she's in short shorts. He seems a little less comfortable in front of the camera, and same goes for the actor playing Callie's local self-appointed bodyguard, Connor. The script, also by Lauren Swickard, teeters between melodrama and romance, which keeps you watching until the end, even if you can guess what will happen from a vineyard's length out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the setting of the California wine country in A California Christmas. Do you know where this area is in California? Where could you go to find out more information?

  • Do you think Joseph made good decisions? Where did he go right or wrong, in your opinion?

  • This movie was filmed during the COVID pandemic of 2020. How do you think they were able to make this movie despite the restrictions?

Movie details

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