A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie packs a wallop of a message about bullying, but manages to entertain in the process. Watching as a family would be an excellent way to approach the topic of bullying as it may affect the children in the household. A new kid in town is picked on mercilessly by her 4th grade classmates. A recently deceased grandpa is discussed with tears and smiles. One character is mildly injured in a diving accident. Children of diverse sizes and ethnicities are depicted.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In its first movie not focused on an historical figure, American Girl chooses a pertinent 21st-century topic with AMERICAN GIRL: CHRISSA STANDS STRONG. Engaging new girl in town Chrissa (Sammi Hanratty) is shy but determined to make new friends when she starts fourth grade at her new school in Minnesota. She doesn't count on the Mean Bee posse, led by blonde and brittle Tara (Adair Tishler), who do all they can in person and online to thwart Chrissa's determination to fit in. Well-meaning parents and a clueless teacher don't appreciate the depth of the problem that Chrissa is trying to handle alone. The bullying escalates to affect others in Chrissa's life before she realizes that she has to stand up for herself.
Is it any good?
Let's hear it for great casting, understated child actors, and a strong vein of humor (in the form of Chrissa's imagined torment of her oppressors). Chrissa Stands Strong manages to skim the melodramatic after-school special feel that it might otherwise have. Hanratty and Tischler are perfect foils, and the evolution of side characters from doormats to strong girls is nice to observe. It's a relief, too, to see these modern 10-year-olds dressing and acting like children, not tiny adults. Michael Learned makes an appearance as a widowed grandma with a penchant for llamas, 30 years after The Waltons.
But the most valuable part of this movie is the way that it can pry open the door between parents and kids about the issue of physical, mental, and cyber-bullying. The parents, played by Annabeth Gish and Timothy Bottoms, make some missteps in how they handle Chrissa's woes, as do school administrators. Kids and adults alike may come away from this movie with a heightened awareness of the dangers of bullying, a better sense of how to identify it, and best of all, some approaches for addressing it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Chrissa's travails. Have you, or any of your friends, been subjected to similar treatment? How have you tried to solve the problem?
What are clues that a problem you may be having is too big for you to solve alone -- when should you involve an adult, whether it's on your behalf or on behalf of a friend?