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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Grace Unplugged is a faith-based family drama about an 18-year-old who runs away to Los Angeles to become a pop star against the express wishes of her Christian parents. It's a story about finding your own way back to you family and God, and it contains some heavy subject matter (references to sex, fake celebrity romances, and artistic compromises), but should be fine for mature tweens and teens. Christian parents will enjoy seeing this movie with their adolescent kids. Families who aren't Christian may still appreciate the feel-good message of honoring your parents and staying true to your beliefs (whatever they might be).
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What's the story?
Grace Trey (AJ Michalka) is the 18-year-old daughter of music pastor Johnny Trey (James Denton), who was a one-hit wonder in the music industry before finding religion, leaving showbiz, and dedicating himself to his faith and family. When her father turns down an opportunity to make a new album with his former manager "Mossy" (Kevin Pollak), Grace is shocked and disgusted. When a friend suggests she try singing a version of her dad's hit "Misunderstood," she does just that and sends it off to Mossy, who offers her the chance of a lifetime: a ticket to L.A. to record a cover of her father's single. But life in Los Angeles comes with a price, including the utter disappointment of her parents, a fake celebrity boyfriend, and lots of temptation.
Is it any good?
If you don't mind the predictable plot twists, this is a feel-good tale about the power of faith and family. It's a classic "prodigal son" story but with a daughter and no faithful older sibling to contrast with her rebellion. Instead, the movie features two steadfast Christian teens to act as her foil: Grace's best friend Rachel (Jamie Grace) -- who doesn't understand why she complains about her caring parents and wonderful life -- and Quentin, the record-label intern who encourages Grace to stick to her beliefs. The movie really lays on the melodrama: Grace can't seem to have a leveled conversation with her dad without devolving into a whiny, diva-ish brat; and later Grace doesn't have any real friends (including her lantern-jawed celebrity boyfriend) in LA, which might as well be Sodom and Gomorrah the way it's portrayed in the drama.
Eventually, as in the Biblical parable, Grace finds her way -- humbled and true of heart -- back to her forgiving parents. The problem is, in the end, she doesn't really suffer any consequences from her decisions. Everything is far better than it was when she was being rebellious. And that's an overly simplistic message to send. It would have been preferable for her to end up like her father -- satisfied performing at church instead of being tempted to contradict her beliefs. Still, the happy ending is pretty welcome after a second act full of so much eye-rollingly obvious anti-Hollywood drama like her being asked to pose for a sexy album cover, record a suggestive single, and perform at bars.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of faith-based movies. Are these message movies made for general entertainment or to evangelize? Will non-Christians enjoy this movie too?
This movie is critical of the entertainment industry. Do you think there's room for people of faith in regular entertainment, or should they stick to faith-based projects and media?
Parents may want to use Grace as an example of the consequences of underage drinking and getting involved with someone who only wants sex. What do the characters in the movie learn about these topics? Are they realistic lessons?
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