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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is largely about the importance of family and how it can be more valuable than a high-paying job or making the perfect Christmas. It's also about learning to communicate to overcome conflicts. That said, nothing that goes "wrong" here is of any real consequence, making the messages feel a bit weak.
Positive Role Models
These are well-intentioned people, but there aren't any clear role models. They're mostly rushing along with the tide, swept up in circumstance.
All main/secondary characters are White. Some positive, three-dimensional female characters.
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Violence & Scariness
Arguing. Frequent moments of stress.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some suggestive sex-related dialogue.
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Sporadic use of "s--t," "ass," "damn," "crap," "hell," "fart," "shut up," and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Lucky Charms and Cheerios cereal boxes prominently displayed in one scene; a character opens a box and snacks on some Charms.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A secondary character (dressed in a Santa suit) drinks from a flask and appears drunk. Some social drinking/drinking in bars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Christmas vs. The Walters is a holiday-themed dramedy about a family struggling through a hectic Christmas season. It's flawed in many ways, but also somewhat cheerful and charming, with fun (though decidedly not diverse) characters. Sporadic language includes uses of "s--t," "ass," "damn," "crap," and more, and there's some suggestive/sex-related dialogue. There's no real violence, but there's definitely arguing, as well as scenes with filled with anxiety, tension, and stress. Characters drink socially/in bars, and one character -- while dressed up as Santa -- drinks from a flask and appears drunk. Cereal boxes (Cheerios, Lucky Charms) are prominently displayed in one shot. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Annoyingly flawed, with flat jokes and a bargain-bin visual style, this holiday-themed dramedy may still brighten the season with its strong main characters and good cheer. The jokes in Christmas vs. The Walters routinely miss the mark. A dog-catcher character is always hungry, and that's supposed to be funny. And a drunk Santa has been done better elsewhere. (Other background jokes, like Diane's kitchen being covered in Post-it notes, are actually funnier, as is a crusty Bruce Dern in his too-few scenes.) Perhaps even worse is the air of first-world problems that this obviously upper-middle-class family has; nothing that goes "wrong" here is of any real consequence.
Despite its characters being well-off, Christmas vs. The Walters has a chintzy look, like old videotape past its shelf-life, that's frequently off-putting. (A flashback sequence establishing Diane's backstory is especially awkward.) And yet, at the center of it all, Smith -- who's best known for the Saw movies -- seems to hold it together, even as she falls apart. She gives a whirly, spunky performance and helps convey a believable family dynamic. It feels like there's a real shared, family history among the characters. And they somehow manage to convey a sweet, lovely holiday spirit that eventually rubs off, especially for those who love Christmas. In the end, even the decorations start to look nice.
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.