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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors is a heartwarming autobiographical movie set during the celebrated actress-singer's childhood. Christian values, Biblical stories, faith, and prayer are central to the story and account for how Dolly's family recovers from tragedy. There are many emotional scenes in which the characters cope with grief and depression, including a very poignant one about an infant's death. Kids may not fully understand some aspects of Dolly's mid-century upbringing, so be prepared to explain things like physical punishment (spanking, slapping hands with a ruler, etc.), the prevalence of smoking, and the family's financial hardships.
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What's the story?
DOLLY PARTON'S COAT OF MANY COLORS opens in 1955 with 9-year-old Dolly (Alyvia Alyn Lind) already full of big dreams about being a star someday. With the voice of an angel and an incorrigible spirit, Dolly knows she's destined for a future far away from her humble beginnings in Sevier County, Tennessee, but for now, the family farm and the love of her parents (Jennifer Nettles and Ricky Schroder) is all she needs. But then tragedy strikes and threatens her mother's steadfast faith in God, pulling the family apart and casting doubt into Dolly as well. Her mother slowly pieces her life back together as she creates a patchwork coat for Dolly, which leads to lessons in compassion and appreciation and eventually reaffirms the family's faith.
Is it any good?
This autobiographical story based on Parton's early song of the same name never shies away from the harsh realities of Dolly's upbringing or the resulting faith-based themes. The latter are obvious, with Bible verses and moral words of wisdom oft-quoted in the dialogue, so they're not easily missed, and the tale of Dolly's multi-colored coat is a visual representation of her mother's (and thus, the family's) journey through happiness, despair, and eventual renewal of hope. It's a beautiful story with far-reaching messages about appreciating one's gifts and using them to bless others in turn.
With themes like these, Coat of Many Colors is an excellent choice for family viewing, but there are incidents in the story that may need some context from you if your young kids watch. Dolly's mischievous spirit endears her to viewers, but on a few occasions, it subjects her to physical punishment from her parents and, in one case, her teacher. There's a lot of raw emotion in scenes that deal with Dolly's mother's depression and its effect on the family, as well as the grief journey that follows their shared tragedy. Other features of the time and place -- her father's smoking habit, the fact that many of the kids don't attend school, the financial struggles of a large farming family, etc. -- stand out as unusual compared to modern times as well, but at the same time, it's refreshing to see such an unsanitized story of faith, family love, and overcoming adversity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the similarities and differences between life during Dolly's childhood and now. How did families entertain themselves before modern inventions like TV? Why were large families like the one in Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors common?
What accounts for the Parton family's closeness? How does their faith unify them? Does your family have any faith-based traditions? How do they account for your value system?
Kids: Is it sometimes difficult to appreciate what you have when you compare it to others' possessions? How do you deal with jealousy? How does helping others change your perspective on what's really important in life?
- On DVD or streaming: May 3, 2016
- Cast: Jennifer Nettles, Rick Schroder, Gerald McRaney, Alyvia Alyn Lind
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Gratitude, Integrity
- Run time: 180 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: December 26, 2019
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