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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christmas Ranch features a troubled teen whose parents bring her to Grandma's horse ranch to help straighten her out after a bout of drinking. The girl lashes out angrily but settles down to help train an ailing horse. Issues of community and helping others during times of financial difficulty are emphasized. Cursing is limited to "sucks."
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What's the story?
In CHRISTMAS RANCH, Liz (Taylor Lyons) is a sullen and insolent 16-year-old who is being brought from her city home to the horse ranch belonging to her grandmother (Francine Locke) by parents who can't manage her. She feels abandoned and betrayed by them and takes it out on her patient and kind grandmother until she develops a passion for an ailing pony too frail to competitively jump. When she learns the ranch is about to be foreclosed by the bank because of loans her grandmother took in order to assist other local farmers in financial trouble, Liz learns to care for and train the horse in the hope that it will win jumping competitions and earn enough to pay the mortgage. A chaste flirtation arises with a local rancher's helpful son (Allen Williamson). Liz proves she is not a bad kid when her resourcefulness and determination help save the ranch.
Is it any good?
The filmmakers would probably categorize this movie as a family drama, but it feels a lot like a fantasy. Liz manages to put together a huge countryside "Christmas market" in one day, with enough donated goods to earn more than $10,000 from a crowd of buyers manifested, again in only one day, from rural who-knows-where without benefit of any advertising. That haul, it's explained, will pay several months of the farm's unpaid mortgage. Also fantastic is a belief that training an untested pony will miraculously produce a jumping champion that will earn enough in prizes to pay the mortgage into the foreseeable future and permanently save the farm. Equally implausible is the claim that Liz turns off and leaves her cell phone for weeks (!) in a bag somewhere just so she doesn't have to talk to her parents. Few teenagers will part with their phones when Caller ID makes it easy to avoid unwanted callers. That's a lot to swallow. Not that Christmas Ranch is hard to watch. It beats Rodeo Girl, with nearly the same plot and message, and probably dozens of other mediocre but likable movies focusing on troubled youths sent to rural settings where caring for other living things help them mature, behave responsibly, and find happiness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how easy it is to become tangled up in one's own problems, like Liz does in Christmas Ranch. Why do you think helping other people or animals in need can be a good way to rise above one's own difficulties?
Do you think kids might stop caring about school and behaving well if they have parents who aren't around much? Why?
How does this movie compare to other horse tales you've seen? How does it compare to other Christmas movies?
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