A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Treat others with kindness because you never know what's happening in their lives. You don't need to take credit for every act of kindness or giving.
"You can fix just about anything if you apply enough love and elbow grease." True friends forgive each other's mistakes. Honesty and integrity should be valued above professional success. The holidays are about giving, even anonymously. When you help a person in need, you can potentially affect not just their circumstances, but also their faith in humanity. "Kindness is contagious."
Positive Role Models
A mother gives up her daughter in hopes she'll have a better life. A kind waitress finds the abandoned baby and raises her lovingly. Hope compromises her integrity to get a good story and further her professional career. The Maxwells take Hope in as if she were family, and they give their spare savings away anonymously every year to a person in need.
Violence & Scariness
A character falls ill and dies. Hope comes home to find her apartment has been robbed. The policeman who responds to her call tells her not to trust people. A woman with a black eye later reveals she was the victim of domestic violence. The patriarch of the Maxwell family is said to have been rescued from a workshop fire and in critical condition at the hospital.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Hope's coworker discusses "cute guys" and potential dates she coordinates through a Tinder-like app. Women joke about cyberstalking. Hope and Ian share a kiss after they are engaged.
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Products & Purchases
Brands mentioned or glimpsed in scenes include Ikea, Premium paint, iPhone, Ohio State University.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Christmas Jars touches on some heavy and mature themes for a holiday movie, including domestic violence, abandoned kids, and the loss of loved ones. There's also quite a bit of light humor about dating and careers, and there are plenty of inspirational messages about hope, giving, and kindness. Among the characters played for comedy is Hope's coworker Brandi, who actively seeks a male companion through a Tinder-like phone app, overlooking the coworker with an obvious crush on her. There's a single kiss between Hope and her fiancé. A character falls ill and dies. Hope comes home to find her apartment has been robbed. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Based on a best-selling novel and real-life movement of anonymous gift-givers, Christmas Jars has at its heart a proven inspirational story of kindness and generosity. Where it works best is when it's telling that story, revealing how selfless acts of humanity can affect people's lives in deep and unexpected ways. The character of Hope, played by Jeni Ross with the right combination of world-weary vulnerability and youthful optimism, offers a perfect vessel for this tale.
But the film also struggles to maintain a coherent tone throughout. We're introduced to Hope as an abandoned baby, then watch her grow up and lose her adoptive mother, all in a 5-minute introductory sequence. This sets a seriously dramatic tone for what's to come, making it confusing when we fast-forward to her life today and are bombarded with a series of awkward characters meant to be funny in Hope's workplace, the editorial room of a Buzzfeed-like news site, and the implausibly-perfect Maxwells, the family that started the Christmas Jars movement. There are some plot points that may offend working journalists. But if they, and other viewers, can look past the inconsistencies, the film's emotional ending delivers its promised holiday message.
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.