A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Finding Normal aims to portray a woman who finds greater meaning in her life by learning to care more about those around her, although it's directly tied to her conversion to Christianity. There's a brief scene of a girl going into shock from a bee sting, but she's saved with a dramatic stab from an EpiPen. A character reveals a cancer diagnosis and that he doesn't have too long to live. There's an overt focus on praying, a sermon, and strong stereotypes about small-town life as superior to big-city living and the kindness and goodness of believers over the shallow self-absorption of nonbelievers.
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What's the story?
Dr. Lisa Leland (Candace Cameron Bure) is packing up her life as a surgeon in Los Angeles to join her boyfriend's practice on Long Island. On the way, she gets a speeding ticket in the bucolic town of Normal, North Carolina, where local law enforcement discover 23 unpaid parking tickets and a warrant for Leland's arrest. Leland owes $2,000, but the city is a cash-only place that doesn't take credit cards, and the one ATM in town is broken. A kind judge, Doc (Lou Beatty, Jr.), who sees a possible successor in Leland, gives her the option of community service in lieu of cash, and as she gets to know the locals and acts as their new doctor, she begins to see a more meaningful life emerge that she never thought possible or desirable.
Is it any good?
FINDING NORMAL has a brisk pace, some good acting and chemistry, and worthwhile messages. We all get caught up in our lives and ambitions, tending to forget how important it is to slow down, reach out, help others, be part of a larger community, and look for things that can give us meaning. And here, a self-important surgeon gets reminded that even she has to pay her parking tickets. It works to undermine assumptions we might make about people in small towns and about their intelligence or quality of life.
That said, the film takes broad swipes at people who live in cities, painting them as self-involved and spoiled, in need of a literal come-to-Jesus revelation. It also takes a dig at the ACLU for meddling in religious freedom. For Christian families, this is a no-brainer. For secular families, it has strongly positive messages but may spark questions about why the other side can only envision one right way to live.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the city versus the country. How do you think the film portrayed each lifestyle? Which did the film suggest was better? Why? Do you agree? Why, or why not?
Do you think the judge's decision to demand community service was a good one? Why, or why not?
Does the main character's decision at the end of the film ring true for you? Why, or why not?
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