A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main character in this made-for-TV movie is a professional thief who's hiding out from the cops after her latest crime goes awry. She's hardly a positive role model for the niece and nephew left in her charge, encouraging the tween boy's pranks and even giving him lessons in the finer points of theft. Some scenes show her breaking into homes and stealing jewelry and high-priced Christmas presents. Despite her eventual change of heart and willingness to take responsibility for her actions, her cop boyfriend swings a community service sentence rather than hard time, which may give tweens and teens an inaccurate impression of the real-life consequences of crime.
What's the story?
When her partner, Clive (Conrad Coates), makes off with a stolen diamond and leaves her high and dry at the crime scene, Cate Dove (Shannen Doherty) just barely escapes being caught. Wondering how she can stay off the cops' radar, she gets a desperate phone call from her sister, Savannah (Sonya Salomaa), who's stuck in the Caribbean and needs someone to stay with her kids back home in Comfort, Conn. While she's hardly the maternal type, Cate eventually develops a rapport with her kind-hearted niece Annie (Natasha Calis) and mischievous nephew Parker (Josh Hayden), who reveres his errant aunt for the legendary tales of her youthful bad behavior. Coming home forces Cate to dust off the skeletons in her own closet, including her feelings of inadequacy around her successful older sister and an unresolved relationship with her high-school boyfriend, Hank (Ty Olsson) -- who as the town's sheriff, is primed to discover her true identity. Eventually Cate has to choose between her criminal ways and the family and friends she's rediscovered in Comfort.
Is it any good?
CHRISTMAS CAPER touches on familiar themes of holiday spirit and Christmas cheer, and it's refreshingly free of mature content (language, sex, drinking, etc.). But be prepared for lots of joking references to potentially hazardous pranks (cracking open a fire hydrant to create an ice slick on the road, for example) and criminal activity. And Cate is hardly a model citizen (let alone baby-sitter), often applauding Parker's mischievous ways and even giving him a few tips on successful theft. Remind tweens and teens that in the real world, crime calls for harsh punishment and rarely works out in the feel-good way that Christmas Caper suggests.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cate's strengths and weaknesses as a role model. Do you think she's a good person or a bad one? What redeeming qualities does she have, despite her line of work? How is she a good example for her niece and nephew? What do they teach her? Can you think of other fictional characters who are both good and bad? What about people in real life?
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