The Night Before Christmas

Movie review by
Nancy Davis Kho, Common Sense Media
The Night Before Christmas Movie Poster Image
Grab bag of best-loved holiday stories.
  • NR
  • 2008
  • 73 minutes

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

Positive Messages

This collection of gently uplifting holiday tales has an emphasis on family closeness and tradition.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that despite the Christmas title, there are stories about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa included as well. Each story is based on a classic children's book. Most of the Christmas stories focus on secular aspects of the holiday, though one takes place at the Nativity scene. African American, Hispanic, and white families are depicted celebrating unique but parallel traditions.

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What's the story?

Another in the Scholastic series of Storybook Treasures, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS follows the familiar approach of bringing well-known children's stories to life with music and animation. This collection focuses on the winter holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem about Saint Nick is narrated by Anthony Edwards. "In the Month of Kislev" by Nina Jaffe, tells the story of a peasant family in a Russian village finding a way to celebrate the festival of light despite their poverty. "Seven Candles for Kwanzaa" by Andrea Davis Pinkney is a primer on the Kwanzaa holiday, narrated by Alfre Woodard. And Latino holiday traditions are depicted in "Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto. Three additional short Christmas tales are included as a bonus.

Is it any good?

While the content of the stories is uplifting, Scholastic hasn't added much to them by putting them into DVD format. The four main stories rely on slow panning over the book's illustrations as the narrator reads. Viewers have the option to display the text onscreen as the DVD plays, a terrific way to reinforce young readers. And the music complements each story well.

Of the collection, "Kislev" and "Tamales" work best simply because they have suspenseful plots that will keep young viewers wondering how the story will end. "Seven Candles" is useful as an introduction to Kwanzaa, while "The Night Before Christmas" and "The Little Drummer Boy" function like familiar holiday ornaments without which it wouldn't really be Christmas.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which of the holiday stories they like the best, and why. What family traditions do you have for celebrating the holidays? Are there any that you saw in the DVD that you might want to try, like making a special holiday food as a family?

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