A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
Wisecracking college freshman Jake (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) has refused to go home since his dad remarried after his mother's death. But he changes his tune when his father says he'll give Jake his treasured Porsche if he gets home by Christmas Eve. Allie (Jessica Biel), Jake's girlfriend, is delighted because they get to travel home together. Plans change when Jake gets into trouble helping some football players cheat on an exam. Pretty soon, he ends up dumped in the desert dressed in a Santa Claus suit while Allie hitches a ride home with Eddie, Jake's sworn enemy. Jake is determined to get to New York. Still dressed as Santa, he makes his way across the country, fast-talking his way out of every sticky situation. As he travels, he begins to realize the importance of friends and family. By the time he gets home, he doesn't even care about the Porsche.
Is it any good?
It's hard to find a Christmas movie for younger teens that isn't too corny or childish; I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS may fit the bill, since it combines sentiment with age-appropriate humor. Adults may find this holiday story dull, but teens will probably enjoy Jonathan Taylor Thomas and his con man persona. Thomas is a surprisingly skilled actor, and makes his character's transformation from self-absorption to sensitivity believable and appealing. As Allie, Jessica Biel is refreshingly real, too. Allie isn't afraid to speak her mind; she tells Jake what she thinks of his bad behavior.
Although the story has no real surprises, it's kept afloat by Jake's rakish ingenuity. He's at his best when he's forced to dispense "hot" appliances to tiny tots, or when he helps a shy cop win back his estranged wife. Each episode along the way teaches Jake a lesson about being honest and helping others, and by the end of his journey, he drops the con man pose and lets his real self come through.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of Christmas movies. Compare and contrast it with other titles, such as It's a Wonderful Life, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Do you see any common themes? Why do you think there are so many Christmas films and so few dealing with other major religious holidays, such as Ramadan or Passover?
- In theaters: November 13, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: September 2, 2003
- Cast: Adam LaVorgna, Jessica Biel, Jonathan Taylor Thomas
- Director: Arlene Sanford
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Holidays
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Parental Guidance Suggested
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