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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love originally aired as a TV movie and follows Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors with more inspirational stories about sacrifice, selflessness, and Christian faith from the acclaimed singer's childhood. Much like the first movie, this story doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities of life in a poor rural community in the 1950s, and the characters face life-or-death peril. In a particularly tense scene, Dolly's mother talks to her daughter about facing death with courage and helping the younger kids to do the same. In another, the fate of Dolly's father is in question. Young kids and sensitive viewers might need reassurance during these scenes, but there are overwhelmingly more incidents of perseverance, kindness, mentoring, and faith to take from this story that warms the heart for the holiday season.
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What's the story?
DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS OF MANY COLORS: CIRCLE OF LOVE tells the story of a memorable holiday season in young Dolly's life. With Christmas approaching, Dolly (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and her seven brothers and sisters make out their wish list while their parents, Lee (Rick Schroder) and Avie Lee (Jennifer Nettles), pinch pennies to make it a reality. With money so tight, there's not enough left for Lee to buy a special gift for his wife, so he takes a dangerous job in the mines and the kids try to chip in what they can to make their mother's holiday bright. Then tragedies strike the entire family, and suddenly just being together for Christmas seems almost impossible. Faced with their harsh reality, the Partons turn to their faith to carry them through these trials to a miraculous Christmas season.
Is it any good?
This inspirational blending of two stories from Parton's childhood is just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit, but the life-and-death realities deserve consideration for sensitive viewers. There's no glossing over the fact that if not for a small change in fortune (or faith, as Dolly's family believed), that Christmas might have had a devastating outcome, and there are moments that are difficult to watch even anticipating a happy ending. Even so, this shouldn't preclude families watching together. In fact the opposite is true, as you can use this remarkable story as a teachable moment and a means to remind kids of the importance of gratitude. Just know you may need to reassure youngsters or explain the realities of survival in a place and time that will seem foreign to many.
For all its heartwarming messages about family and Christianity-derived themes, though, Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love is a jumble of simultaneous storylines that sometimes get in the way of each other. There's Dolly's quest to be the star of the Christmas pageant, her rift with her best friend, a slowly evolving backstory for the schoolmarm, and the somewhat odd-fitting appearances of an inspirational figure named the Painted Lady (played by Parton), who shows up to inspire young Dolly to not give up on her dreams. The end result is less refined than it could be, but even this can't upend this family movie's truly wonderful themes about family and faith.
Talk to your kids about ...
What accounts for the characters' ability to persevere through such difficult circumstances in Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love? What other character strengths does Dolly's family embody?
Families can talk about the role faith plays in the lives of the characters and in your own life. The Partons trust God's plan in everything they do. How does faith factor into your daily life? Are your religious customs similar to Dolly's family's or different?
Who stands out among the cast as a good role model? Is it always easy to recognize role models in our own lives? Who inspires you?
What different examples of sacrifice exist in this story? What can we learn from Dolly's family's experiences about the difference between needs and wants? Does this story change your perspective on material things?
- In theaters: November 30, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2016
- Cast: Dolly Parton, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Jennifer Nettles, Ricky Schroder
- Director: Stephen Herek
- Studios: NBC Studios, Warner Bros. Television
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, Holidays, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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