A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Young viewers will definitely learn more about the time period -- 1955 -- in which this special is set. They may have questions for adults after viewing about polio, World War II, and why girls weren't allowed to wear pants.
Maryellen chafes against the restrictions placed on girls: She wonders why girls can't wear pants and why women can only hope to be teachers or secretaries or moms. Grade school students are kind to each other, bringing get-well cards to a sick friend and scheming to get presents for kids in the hospital.
Positive Role Models
Maryellen is impetuous and makes mistakes but apologizes and tries to do better -- her heart is generally in the right place, and she shows compassion and empathy toward a group of sick kids she meets. Parents are present and caring, spending time with their children and listening to their troubles. A young boy with polio is realistic about his disease and how others make fun of him; he hopes an operation will make him "like everyone else."
Violence & Scariness
A main character's father has died; his death is referred to several times. Kids call each other "dense" and refer to children with disabling polio as "cripples."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens talk about having dates and getting engaged.
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Products & Purchases
Kids list what they want for Christmas: a Dick Tracy watch, marbles, a new bat, and blue flippers.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas is a sweet drama about a young girl who wants to make her Christmas extra-special. Main character Maryellen is impetuous and makes mistakes but always apologizes and tries to be kind to those around her. Parents are responsible, present, and caring. A high school girl dates and talks about possibly getting engaged and married. Kids call each other "dense" and refer to children disabled by polio as "cripples"; later, they regret these actions and try to make up for them. Young viewers may learn new things about (and may question adults about) polio, World War II, and early feminism. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Sweet and full of vintage details and clothing, this drama is tailor-made for young tweens who love a story about a relatable kid trying to make a difference. Despite growing up in an earlier time, Maryellen cares about the kinds of things grade schoolers care about -- Christmas presents, how she stands in the family pecking order, fairness, and friendship. In an attempt to stand out, Maryellen makes mistakes -- an attempt to distinguish her house from all the similar houses on the block by painting the front door red backfires, and she accidentally tells her whole family that her sister Joan (Madison Lawlor) is "pinned" to her boyfriend.
But Maryellen makes more kind gestures than mistakes, heeding her mother's words: "Sometimes if you listen, people tell you what they want most." Once she learns to listen to her family members and friends, she's able to figure out a way to make Christmas special for each of them, and the whole shebang culminates in an improbable Florida snowball fight. Grown-ups may find the proceedings a little cheesy, but An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas is fine, nonthreatening fare for young viewers in the mood for a kindhearted Christmas special.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.