A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christmas Grace is a 2013 faith-based holiday movie. A conniving and hard-hearted businessman cheats a devout rival who loses his business as a result. The devout man then shows kindness to the cheater and persuades him to find Jesus. This movie is best for Christian families, given its heavy religious messages.
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What's the story?
CHRISTMAS GRACE presents two of the major formulas of Christian-themed movies: a). a stubborn nonbeliever is shown the true path of God's love, and b). a believer faces hard times that test his faith, then not only has his faith reinforced by the Lord's mysterious ways but also reaches out to the nonbeliever and turns the man's life around. Tollman is a godless, child-hating jerk who, ironically, opens an enormous toy store. His goal is to put the town's other little family-owned toy store out of business. Owner Gary is a kind and devout man who wonders where God is when he loses everything to Tollman. Gary angrily questions God's plan for him, but then regains his good cheer when he invents a successful new toy. The dour Tollman remembers a childhood of faith and loss and, by accepting Gary's help, cries and prays his way to redemption.
Is it any good?
If you're looking for a well-acted, well-written, and well-shot Christian-themed movie showing the benefits of belief without evidence, look elsewhere. The actors do their best to make this well-meaning feature work, and there are some touching moments, but only the already-converted will buy the premise. Others may find the simplistic and condescending views of the faithful herein overbearing. The most essential question raised but never addressed is, does one have to be Christian to do good? Gary is more than likable and admirable in theory but, as created for the purposes of this movie, he is such a one-note caricature of religious devotion that his responses and actions seem otherworldly, not human. Tollman feels a lot like Scrooge without the diverting lure of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to justify his one-dimensional existence and our interest. It's far easier to proselytize using black-and-white examples of goodness and evil but, in real life, goodness and evil hardly ever occur all by themselves in any one person. This movie does not reflect that reality.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the act of generosity performed by the devout Gary in the face of Tollman's selfishness and cheating. Gary claims God gave him the idea to be kind. Do you think that a person who does not believe in God could be just as kind?
Tollman acts like a completely different person at the end of the movie. Do you think people can change as drastically as he does? If religion is one way to change for the better, do you think there also might be other ways to make positive changes?
Do you think people tend to make big changes in themselves and their lives when everything is going well or when they're in distress and need help? Do you think Tollman would have turned to religion if his business continued to be successful? Why, or why not?