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 Inheritance is a generic Christmas title emphasizing the importance of human connections, traditions, friendship, and love. Supposed city values are compared negatively with supposed small-town values. The death of loved ones is discussed. A man's wife left him for another man. A woman starts to fall for the man she hated at first sight. Two young lovebirds kiss.
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What's the story?
CHRISTMAS INHERITANCE follows Ellie (Eliza Taylor), whose dad, Jim Langford (Neil Crone), founded the multimillion-dollar gift company Home & Hearth. His best friend and co-founder, Zeke, has stayed in the northern small town of their youth while Jim has run the company from its New York headquarters. Company tradition requires that Jim and Zeke write each other all-important "Christmas letters" describing everything they do to make the company better. As the action begins, Ellie works for the company and helps with a Christmas gala fundraiser the company sponsors. A donor at the party agrees to quadruple his donation if she shows off her gymnastics talent and vaults over a display at the party. In a strapless red party dress, she successfully makes the leap but knocks over a Christmas tree and for some reason a picture of her and the toppled tree ends up on the front page of a New York newspaper. Rather than praise her for going the extra mile to raise donations, her father is disappointed and feels the need to send her to deliver the Christmas letter up north to Zeke. He pays for her stay at Zeke's inn and allows her to take only a hundred dollars, a bus ticket, and her wits. She can't use credit cards and she can't reveal that she is the company heiress to anyone in the town. There she meets the inn manager, Jake (Jake Lacey), who was left by his two-timing wife during a brief life in New York and is now sulking back in his hometown. His Aunt Debbie (Andie MacDowell) owns the local restaurant. She's a salt-of-the-earth type who sees Ellie's potential as the cure for Jake's woes. When Ellie runs through her hundred, Jake puts her to work cleaning the inn, and this seemingly triggers Ellie's instincts to be helpful. Debbie teaches Ellie how to bake cookies, and this seems to motivate Ellie to help raise money for the town's annual charitable Christmas fete. Ellie's slick New York boyfriend, Gray (Michael Xavier), arrives unannounced to discover the chemistry between Ellie and Jake, and he shows his disdain for the "hicks" Ellie has come to care about. Ellie sees the light, dumps Gray, and persuades Jake that he's the one.
Is it any good?
This is a generic Christmas movie following a tired old storyline that must be written in the "Christmas Movie Plots" book available to moviemakers with no ideas of their own. Christmas Inheritance starts with a baseless premise: that Ellie, heiress to the Home & Hearth gift empire, needs a lesson in, well, exactly what is unclear. When she's introduced at a charitable gala sponsored by her father's company, she bounces in via cartwheels she learned in her gymnast days, and the entrance dazzles the guests. One is so delighted he challenges her to vault over a Christmas display in exchange for a quadrupling of his donation. Although she clears the "hurdle," and seemingly gets the big donation for their worthy charity, her landing knocks down a Christmas tree. Her father is gravely concerned, thinking this act was an indication that Ellie is somehow ill-equipped to take over as CEO of the company when he retires. Huh? We might agree with his view if the movie's early moments had instead showed Ellie mistreating employees, stealing from the company's coffers, doing drugs, or acting snooty to guests or waiters. Yes, she is unfamiliar with bus travel and expects room service, having grown up wealthy, but otherwise she seems nice enough. Her biggest transgression is that she is bouncy.
The filmmakers do nothing to set up a need for Ellie to improve her character, except that her father tells her she must. Dad wants her to "learn" from the good townspeople of Snow Falls, the northern enclave where he and Zeke started the company. This is confusing. Home & Hearth deals in retail, not caring for the homeless. What does she learn? That people there are nice? Snow Falls residents tell her that tradition, friendship, and love are the best gifts. Nothing the movie shows us about Ellie indicates that this is news to her. And what exactly is Zeke's role now? Did he leave the company? If not, why is he still in Snow Falls while Dad is running the company from the New York City HQ? What is the point of the Christmas letters? Dad says they annually describe everything important he and Zeke have done over decades to make the company better, yet when the letters are read aloud, they don't contain anything substantial about running the company at all. In the movie's favor, Eliza Taylor and Jake Lacey make a nice couple, although given Jake's small-town roots and Ellie's big-city vibe, happily ever after doesn't seem assured.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether there's a difference between so-called "small-town values" and "big-city values." Do you think people in small towns live in an objectively better way than city folks? On what basis do you think such judgments are made?
The movie suggests that Ellie's fiancé is self-centered. He's compared to Jake, who is charitable. Does it feel as if the movie is suggesting that all small-town people are charitable and good and all city people are stingy and bad? Do you think that assumption sounds true?
What is the connection between good values and running a company that sells stuff to people? Does Christmas Inheritance explain it?
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