A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paper Angels is a warm, fuzzy holiday drama with a teen boy at the center. Though some themes are mature (alcoholism, cyberbullying, spousal abuse, business failure), they are handled gently, directly, and with the intent of showing positive resolutions to the problems as they arise. Messages are sound; some are faith-based. Characters learn important lessons from their experiences and from the people in their lives. Then, in turn, they become positive role models for others. The Salvation Army's Christmas Angel Program ("Paper Angels") is given a big boost here. A mom is shown with a bruised face after having been physically abused by her alcoholic husband, whom we see drinking and bleary-eyed. Based on a song and book by country singer Jimmy Wayne, this film originally aired on cable TV (2014). Though it isn't an original premise, the sincerity and positive attitudes here make it a relevant seasonal experience for families with older kids and teens.
What's the story?
Two stories are interwoven in PAPER ANGELS. The Brandt family is in crisis. Having escaped her brutal, alcoholic husband, Lynn Brandt (Josie Bissett) and her two kids, Thomas (a solid, engaging Rustin Greziuk) and Sara (a delightful Farryn VanHumbeck), are adjusting to a new life in a new town. The Morrells, Kevin (Matthew Settle) and Jenny (Kendra Anderson), are awaiting the birth of twin boys when, just before the holidays, Kevin's business is faced with a shattering loss of revenue, putting his entire company at risk. The Brandts and the Morrells cross paths at the town's community center, where new kid Thomas is the butt of a popular bully's taunting. The stakes rise as the bullying gets worse, the Morrell pregnancy becomes problematic, and the Brandt family may be in danger from the dad they still pray for. Lucky for all, the Salvation Army has an active Christmas program -- kids in need make wish lists to hang on the organization's Christmas tree from which caring community members pick them to provide a happy holiday. Faith and friendship play major roles as both families confront their problems with empathy, generosity, and love.
Is it any good?
Heartfelt messages, good performances, and solid production values turn what might have been a very conventional Christmas movie into a pleasant, positive viewing experience. It doesn't matter that in reality there probably aren't many teen boys as kind and unrelentingly unselfish as Thomas, because the character is a wonderful role model. In fact, most of the people in this story represent the very best in all of us. The movie honors ideal single-parenting, sincere faith, a conscientious business model, an always loving and close marriage, compassionate social organizations, forgiveness, and second chances. Does everything come easily here? Yes ... and it's nice to be reminded that sometimes that's the way life works.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cyberbullying shown in this film. Does the explanation -- "He's an insecure jock who makes himself feel important by bullying other people around" -- feel authentic to you? Has your school, community, or family discussed cyberbullying? What methods have been developed to deal with such behavior? Are you aware that everyone has a responsibility to react appropriately when cyberbullying occurs?
The words "charity" and "charity case" were used several times in this movie. Different folks behaved charitably in different ways. Discuss the various forms of generosity in which the characters participated. Was money always a factor in the contributions they made?
How did the music used in this film contribute to your enjoyment of and emotional response to the story as you watched?
- On DVD or streaming: November 3, 2015
- Cast: Matthew Settle, Rustin Greziuk, Josie Bissett
- Director: David Winning
- Studio: Johnson Production Group
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, High School, Holidays, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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