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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Be grateful for what you have: a safe home, strong faith, a good family. Reach out to others. Stresses importance of talking to someone in authority about cyberbullying. Faith-based message: One must trust the guiding force inside.
Positive Role Models
Male teen protagonist undergoes a number of life-changing situations; he responds with courage, resourcefulness, and empathy, meaningfully addressing the issues in a positive way. Mother in difficult circumstances rises to the occasion and always keeps the welfare of her kids in focus. Businessman is reliable, takes responsibility for his employees, and has strong values. Even the story's villains take heart and learn from others. Ethnic diversity throughout.
Violence & Scariness
A wife is shown with a badly bruised face, having been hit by her husband. A scuffle on the basketball court.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A pregnant woman's belly is shown undergoing an ultrasound examination. A married couple kisses and treats one another lovingly.
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Products & Purchases
The Salvation Army's Christmas Angel Program is a central part of the story. Incidental product and store visuals in a shopping mall and in a store (Game of Thrones game, comic books, Coca-Cola, Star Trek products).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A drunk dad orders his son to get him a beer; the man's alcoholism is a critical plot element, though after the first scene we do not see him drinking.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.