Christmas in the City

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Christmas in the City Movie Poster Image
Sweet but cliched story about regaining Christmas spirit.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 87 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Christmas spirit is embedded in giving, not getting. People who lie and cheat end up punished in the end. People who care more about making money than the true spirit of Christmas are eventually exposed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wendy is a dedicated daughter trying to honor her father's memory and dying wish that she keep his candy story afloat after his death. Tom is a good man who has been forced by his company's board to hire a sales consultant to modernize his old-fashioned store and boost sales. Eventually, he stands up for what he believes in. Retail consultant Teanna is rude and unfeeling. She represents the crass commercialism of Christmas and tries to sell products with sexually suggestive shirtless Santas. She also frames an innocent woman with a crime.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

A man and a woman fall in love.  A man kisses a woman. A woman's 5-year-old daughter was conceived out of wedlock. Shirtless models stand around a department store in Santa hats.


"Hell" and "shut up."


Christmas is about giving, not getting. The commercial nature of Christmas is derided here.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Christmas in the City, a 2013 Lifetime Channel movie, falls squarely into the feel-good Christmas story category and doesn't deviate at any point from the requirements of that genre. The movie offers no negative judgments on the fact that the main character got pregnant by her high school sweetheart when they weren't married. He also left her to have the child, now 5, on her own. Language includes "hell" and "shut up." Shirtless models stand around a department store in Santa hats. The characterization of Santa, who seems to meld magical gift-giving powers with God-like omniscience, might intrude a bit on some religious beliefs.

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What's the story?

Wendy (Ashley Williams) is desperately trying to prevent the looming financial collapse of her dead father's beloved little candy story as CHRISTMAS IN THE CITY opens. With her mother and 5-year-old daughter, Grace (Kylie Price), Wendy lives in the cozy town of her childhood, but realizes that she must take a temporary job in "the city" to make enough money to save the store. She and Grace move in with childhood friend Angie (Shanola Hampton), who is supporting her acting dreams with a day job selling toys at Wolman's, a large department store that is having its own money troubles. Sunny Wendy, a woman full of Christmas spirit, immediately catches the eye of Tom Wolman (Jon Prescott), a decent man who is number two in charge of the store. In the face of financial setbacks, the store's board has hired Teanna (Ashanti), a ruthless, scheming, money-obsessed consultant who is dismantling the store's old-fashioned Christmas vibe and replacing it with intrusive rap videos denouncing Santa and touting the power of buying. Will Christmas be ruined? Rest assured that all ends well.

Is it any good?

This is a pleasant but utterly generic movie about vanishing Christmas spirit and the few who still feel the real spirit in their hearts. Dear, sweet people who love caroling and drinking hot cider triumph against evil souls promoting Christmas' commercial side. Some version of this unsurprising movie has been shown on Hallmark and/or Lifetime channels for decades. The good news is that it's kid-friendly, with no language, behavior, or sexuality (save a few guys without shirts) to offend anyone, unless what offends you is complete lack of originality. The actors are mostly competent and likable. Watch for Christmas in the City's highlight, in which two characters who are falling in love sit at a piano and sing a startlingly beautiful version of "Noel."

For city-dwellers who have lots of Christmas spirit, the movie may seem condescending as it implies that only small-towners know the real meaning of Christmas. In any case, from the moment the plot conflicts establish themselves, there will be no doubt as to how this movie ends.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Christmas spirit means to them. Christmas in the City suggests that we get when we give. What do you think that means?

  • Why do you think children love Santas in stores? Do you think kids enjoy having a grown-up listen to their dreams?

  • The movie portrays the department store Santa as the real Santa, a figure with magical powers. Do you think the magic fit in with the rest of the movie's message?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love the holidays

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