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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The importance of community, and how a community can come together to address problems. Movie centers on how Americans can do more to ensure that the veterans who fought for our country aren't left homeless and get the help they need if they're struggling with PTSD or other mental illnesses.
Positive Role Models
In addition to the lead characters, a faith-based community shows how it's possible to work together to help homeless veterans -- not just during the holidays, but year-round.
Violence & Scariness
One of the lead characters struggles with PTSD after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. While there's nothing overtly violent in the movie, loud noises such as ambulance sirens cause him to have anxiety attacks. During one of these attacks, the titular dog runs into the street, and it appears that he has been struck by a car. One of the characters is discovered having a heart attack in the woods in the tent city he lives in.
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Products & Purchases
In a gratuitous scene at the very end of the movie, a Safelite Auto van pulls up into the driveway of the house where the main characters live. A Safelite Auto employee emerges from the van to fix the large crack in the windshield of the main character's vehicle.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine drinking at a romantic dinner.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Charlie's Christmas Wish is a faith-based family drama in which a puppy tries to help a returning soldier who's struggling with PTSD. While the cover and beginning of the movie might lead one to believe that this is going to be simply another movie about a cute dog with cute voiceovers, the reality is that this is more of a movie centered on what might be done to help homeless veterans, and not just during the holidays. One of the lead characters, a soldier returning home from Afghanistan, struggles with PTSD, and he soon befriends other veterans with similar mental health issues. In one scene, the titular dog runs off while the returning veteran suffers a PTSD attack triggered by an ambulance siren, and is thought to be struck by a vehicle. One of the characters is discovered having a heart attack in the woods in the tent city he lives in with other homeless vets. Wine drinking during a romantic dinner. Gratuitous product placement near the end of the movie. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While it starts out as a "talking dog" faith-based holiday movie, Charlie's Christmas Wish gradually transitions into an earnest plea for doing more for homeless and mentally ill veterans. Those expecting more saccharin holiday fare will no doubt be disappointed, but for faith-based families interested in seeing how a church community and the surrounding town work together to address this issue, it should inspire thoughtful discussion about homeless and mentally ill veterans in America, and hopefully homeless and mentally ill people as a whole in America. That said, despite the positive message, the movie itself suffers from clunky storytelling, some flat acting, and the occasional awkward attempt at comedy.
It's the kind of movie where the story threads run amok and overwhelm any central narrative. Despite the title and movie poster, it's not long before little Charlie is just one of several side stories as the movie shifts its focus to getting to know all the veterans and their struggles. To seamlessly interweave all these stories would even be a challenge for the Robert Altmans of the world, and it's soon obvious that the movie's low budget, community-theater acting, and clunky shifts from cutesy dog voiceovers to homeless men having heart attacks in tent communities in the woods aren't up to the challenge.
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.