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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 Northpole, a live-action family drama made for the Hallmark Channel and now released on DVD, is a feel-good, magic-is-possible Christmas story in which children accomplish the unthinkable, adults learn important lessons, and happy endings are as accessible as an enchanted snowflake. Young Kevin only has to disobey his mom a little bit as he and his best friend, Clementine, a dedicated elf, try to save the town of Northpole from catastrophe. Buoyed by positive messages and holiday spirit, this gentle film is best for kids and tweens.
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What's the story?
There's trouble coming to NORTHPOLE, a bustling city where Santa (Robert Wagner) and Mrs. Claus (Jill St. John) lead the elf-citizens in the yearlong task of preparing for his Christmas ride. The problem is, there's not enough Christmas happiness in the world to fuel the northern lights, which provide the energy for Northpole, which, in turn, sends toys to the children, thereby sparking the happiness, which then fuels ... Get the drift? It's called the Cycle of Happiness. Much further south, Kevin's new hometown is a perfect example of happiness-at-risk. The mayor has canceled the century-old Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. There's not enough money; the park is in terrible disrepair; not that many people show up! But Clementine (Bailee Madison), a dynamic elf, has decided to take matters into her own hands. When she enlists Kevin (Max Charles) to be her earthling accomplice, the two set out to start the Cycle anew. It isn't easy: Kevin's reporter-mom (Tiffany Thiessen) is a cynic; the town is apathetic; and Kevin, the new boy, has no friends to help. Their only ally is Kevin's teacher, a man who believes that anything can happen and who lights up whenever Kevin's mom is around. A newspaper story, the discovery of a letter to Santa from long ago, and an important change of heart may turn things around. If only they had a little magic to help them ...
Is it any good?
It's a budget-conscious Hallmark Channel entry, but, even with constraints, if you don't look too hard the city of Northpole looks magical. Kids will appreciate the can-do elf, Clementine, and they'll root for Kevin. If they're a little older, they'll root for Kevin's teacher and Kevin's mom to find each other in the true holiday spirit. Saving a town from greedy interests and bringing back the Christmas spirit aren't new concepts, but there's enough originality here to make it worth watching. Nice to see kids, on their own, careening through the sky on a sleigh and nice to believe in magic snowballs, snowflakes, and Robert Wagner and Jill St. John as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why we love movies about the real meaning of Christmas. How do we "commercialize" Christmas? Do you think the two versions of the holiday can coexist in a meaningful way?
Were you surprised at what you learned about Mr. Pendleton, the owner of the development company? How is his character different from rich businessmen as they're usually portrayed in family movies?
Kevin mentions several ways to spread holiday happiness: baking cookies, caroling, and lighting a Christmas tree, for example. Think about or make a list of other things kids can do to spread holiday happiness without using "magic."
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