Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square Movie Poster Image
Holiday musical includes mature themes, promotes faith.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Individuals can be of service to their community in myriad ways. Find the light within you and let it shine on others. It's important to be happy with what you have. Sometimes it takes a change of heart to inspire a change of mind. Everyone makes mistakes and it's okay to ask for forgiveness. Christmas is a time for caring and sharing, and it's better to give than receive. Love and compassion shouldn't be dependent on skin color or wealth. A crisis can inspire generosity. Christian messages of truth in the Bible, faith, hope, the work of angels, and the value of prayer. If you fail, get up and try again. Grief is love with nowhere to go. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Regina behaves selfishly and meanly to everyone. Even her own potentially-terminal medical diagnosis doesn't alter her conduct or plans to evict all of the local townspeople, who call her the Wicked Witch of the Middle, on Christmas Eve. It takes the potentially life-threatening accident of a local little girl, and the discovery of a long-held secret, to make her have a change of heart. When she does, she quickly asks everyone for forgiveness and opens herself up to love again. Carl maintains a small store with second-hand items; he believes memories are precious and priceless -- their value can't be measured in economic worth. Regina's dad was a father figure to the entire town, and she discovers that a past misunderstanding of his intentions had led to a rift between them. She forgives him, just as the townspeople forgive her. The angels and the humans all demonstrate compassion. There's an impressive diversity on display in the film's middle American town.

Violence

Regina's dad died not long ago, and she meets a little girl whose mom died in a car accident that could've been avoided. Later, the girl is in an accident herself, and her life is at stake. We see her wheeled into the hospital with a bloodied bandage on her head; her father sings an emotional song at her bedside. The townspeople sing a song about the "Wicked Witch of the Middle" and all the (explicit) ways they could hurt or potentially kill her, though it's played for laughs. A story is told about a teenager who got pregnant and was forced to "disappear" until the baby could be born and given up for adoption.

Sex

Flashbacks to the past show Regina and Carl as high school sweethearts making out. A teen gets pregnant. A romantic song talks about lovers. A couple having trouble getting pregnant talk about fertility treatments and kiss.

Language

"BS," "damn," "stupid," "witch," "hell," "God," "lord," "devil."

Consumerism

Regina is a successful businesswoman who lives a life of wealth, including a big house, nice clothes, and a Mercedes. Her plans to evict all the local townspeople and make way for the construction of an enormous mall could leave people destitute and homeless. She looks "right through" a woman on the street she believes is homeless and asking for change. Dolly sings a song about the haves and the have-nots who experience Christmas, and life, very differently.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Regina has a whisky at a bar that a young girl is attending while her dad is out. The next morning, she is awoken on the living room couch, where she says she fell asleep after a "rough night" (and we see another empty glass on a coffee table).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square is a family holiday musical with Christian themes and some emotionally difficult scenes. The most distressing is when a little girl who has already lost her mom in an avoidable car accident gets into a life-threatening accident herself. At her hospital bedside, her father sings a sorrowful song about presuming he'd go first but understanding if she needs to go be with her mom. In another flashback scene, a teen girl's pregnancy is kept secret and her baby taken from her against her will at birth and put up for adoption. A song called "Wicked Witch of the Middle" is sung by the local townspeople about all the ways they would hurt or potentially kill the main character. The words are violent, but the scene is meant to be funny. The unofficial leader of the notably diverse town is the local pastor, named "Christian." The film carries Christian messages about the truth of the Bible, faith, hope, the work of angels, and the value of prayer. Dolly Parton plays an angel who's training a younger angel to earn her wings by helping an embittered and misdirected woman find love and joy again. The angels and humans demonstrate compassion. Couples kiss and discuss fertility treatments, and language includes "BS," "damn," "stupid," "witch," "hell," and "devil." A character has a whisky at a bar that a young girl is attending while her dad is out. The next morning, she's awoken on the living room couch, where she says she fell asleep after a "rough night" (and we see another empty glass on a coffee table).

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byStephanie Radnoti November 28, 2020

Loved this movie

We love Dolly so much, so of course we were going to watch this movie. The whole family from 14-82 years old loved it!! It is very entertaining with a positive... Continue reading
Adult Written byMrjd1 December 24, 2020

A Great Christmas Musical

I think it's really good and the songs really suit it. The funny bits are great.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Regina (Christine Baranski) is a successful businesswoman who owns the majority of land in her hometown of Fullerville, Kansas in DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE. Following her father's death, and eager to cut all ties to the town, she announces plans to sell the whole area to a developer to build a giant mall. The townspeople will be evicted from their homes and businesses on Christmas Eve. But before this happens, Regina is visited by a guardian angel who wants to help her find love and joy again, just in time for the season of giving.

Is it any good?

Everything Dolly touches seems to turn to gold, and Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square is no different. There's a scene where Baranski's Regina looks down her patrician nose at Angel Dolly's rhinestone-encrusted platform boots and utters, "tacky." It's hilarious and telling at once: a comment on the coastal elite's view of "Middle" America (and maybe Dolly herself), city vs town, cosmopolitan vs country. True enough, if you can't take the shiny surface -- the genre-hopping musical numbers, jazz-hand dancing, small-town sweetness and Christian messages -- then this movie could be a tough watch for you.

If you can look beyond the rhinestones, the film has a much deeper and harder-edged story than the intentionally old-fashioned, It's a Wonderful Life-inspired packaging would suggest. The film is at turns sad, funny, silly, and inspiring, just like Dolly's tell-it-as-it-is song lyrics often are. (A benefit of this being a Netflix film is the possibility to play it with subtitles and read all the lyrics.) There are angels perched on clouds and prancing pastors and postmen, but there are also teen pregnancies, forced adoptions, lost loves, dead parents, fertility treatments, hospitalized children, and dire medical diagnoses. An especially moving scene has the world-weary and bitter Regina bond with a wise-beyond-her-years little girl who helps tend her daddy's bar. The two sing "life is not a fairy tale," a lyric that could easily serve as the film's tagline.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the parable of the lamp lighter told in Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square. What is the lesson of the story, and why does the angel tell it to Regina?

  • What aspects of Christian faith are on display in this film? Do you have to be a believer to enjoy this movie? Why or why not?

  • A line warns the town isn't "wonderful" and you aren't "George Bailey." Did you get this reference? How could you figure out what it refers to?

  • How do different characters demonstrate compassion? Why is this an important character strength?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love the holidays

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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