Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas Movie Poster Image
Feisty heroine fights social injustice in slow-paced tale.
  • G
  • 2011
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

References 1900 in American South: costumes, sets, some characterizations.

Positive Messages

Strongly values doing the right thing even at some personal cost. Promotes persistence when fighting for a righteous cause. Advocates hope and resourcefulness in pursuing goals.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Feisty young heroine persists in breaking rules, manipulating the truth, and risking her own well-being to live up to her ideals and to accomplish an admirable goal. Adults, rigid and unyielding at first, learn to bend and reappraise their stand in favor of a good resolution. A Native American character is a stereotype.

Violence & Scariness

A few shadowy, suspenseful scenes as girls sneak into a mysterious attic and hear bumps in the night. Girl suggests a whipping of 10 licks as punishment; it's administered off camera, and she reacts afterward.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas is the third in a series of movies based on the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard. Leppard's heroine, in more than 40 works published between 1983 and 2004, is a girl born just before the turn of the 20th century in North Carolina. This story works as a stand-alone tale but provides few clues about Mandie's history and family background. Nor does it tell the audience how Mandie arrived at Miss Heathwood's School for Girls in 1900. The story is part mystery, part tale of deeply held prejudices, and part coming-of-age drama. Mandie spends a few suspenseful moments in a mysterious attic and more time breaking school rules. A girl suggests a whipping of 10 licks as punishment; it's administered off camera, and she reacts afterward. The film promotes doing the right thing regardless of the consequences and being stubborn and resourceful when the cause is just. A Native American character is a dated stereotype.

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What's the story?

It's 1900, and holiday preparation is underway at Miss Heathwood's School for Girls in MANDIE AND THE FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS. Mandie (Kelly Washington) is sent to retrieve decorations from the small boarding school's attic, a place the girls are forbidden from entering without permission and a key. But mysterious noises and a fallen hat rack pique Mandie's interest. When everyone's asleep, the scrappy girl sneaks upstairs to find out what's really going on in that curious place. What Mandie does find prompts her to take action and extraordinary steps to change the rules at the school. It's not an easy task. Miss Headstrom (Joanna Daniel) has a long-held secret -- a secret that keeps her tight-lipped, strict, and often sad. It's up to Mandie, some trusted friends, and her Cherokee uncle to unravel both the mystery of Miss Headstrom's past and the means to help someone who desperately deserves her efforts.

Is it any good?

Good intentions and a terrific, natural performance by Kelly Washington as Mandie cannot save a weak, contrived script and slow-paced, lifeless direction in this addition to the Mandie series. The messages are sound -- thinking for oneself, taking risks to right a wrong, and refusal to accept prejudice -- but they're given such a weak platform that they have no resonance. The "forgotten Christmas" element never pays off. The would-be antagonist's backstory, which is supposed to explain her behavior, has no bearing on the current dilemma and never accounts for her illusive attic. The depiction of the Native American uncle of the heroine is both offensive and inauthentic. While some performances are solid, others are substandard. Worst of all, the movie lacks logic, motivated behavior, and any semblance of reality no matter what the year. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about creating a movie set in 1900. Other than the obvious (costumes and sets), what are other elements do the filmmakers use to bring a certain time period to life? Think about such things as customs and language. 

  • Is Mandie's behavior (sneaking out, taking the key, manipulating the truth) justified by her goals? Why, or why not? 

  • Describe the character of Uncle Ned -- for example, where he lived and how he dressed. Find out about real Native Americans who might have lived in North Carolina in 1900. Does Uncle Ned seem authentic?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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