A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Spirit of Christmas is a romantic fantasy that discusses the violent death of one of the main characters 95 years before. The plot suggests that ghosts exist and can talk to the rest of us, that they can defy death if they want to, and that they can stay in the real world and conduct love affairs. Only clothed kissing is shown, but a scandalous 1929 premarital pregnancy is referenced. A character needing money runs illegal alcohol during prohibition. A man is killed when he is hit from behind with a rock. Some blood is seen in the snow around him. A woman falls down the stairs, bumps her head, and goes unconscious.
What's the story?
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS is literally a ghost, Daniel (Thomas Beaudoin), who haunts the country inn he owned until his murder 95 years back. Kate (Jen Lilley) is a go-getter young lawyer whose boyfriends keep leaving because she seems too wrapped up in herself to be capable of love. She is assigned to have the inn appraised and sold after the most recent owner's death but every appraiser flees in terror after encounters with Daniel the angry ghost. In the process, Kate meets and falls for Daniel. Apart from the obvious obstacles, there's another small problem: Daniel claims a curse gives him only 12 days of the year among the living, pulling him into a Dead People nightmare at midnight every Christmas Eve. This puts a serious crimp in any long-term romantic plans. With no memory of the circumstances of his death, he chases people away, believing that his continuing presence at the inn is part of the curse he's unable to escape. Kate believes that if she can just help Daniel remember his story he will be free to "cross over," allowing her to appraise the place and sell. But the truth is she wants more.
Is it any good?
The movie seems to suggest that if you're willing to believe that ghosts from 95 years ago are interacting with living people, then you won't much care if many other loose ends are left dangling. For the murdered inn owner who is The Spirit of Christmas, haunting his old inn is just part of his charm. He's maintained enough mojo to make a real live attorney fall in love with him even though a life together only offers the prospect of their spending the 12 days per year together that he is able to appear in the mortal world. "Unconventional" is what she calls that arrangement. "Unlikely" and "impossible" also come to mind. That's confirmed by the fact that the neither the writer nor the director were able to, or bothered to, offer even a fantasy explanation of how this fictional arrangement might be possible. Even within the movie's internal logic system, it makes no sense. The movie also never explains why lots of other long-dead types aren't showing up to live their lives.
Also puzzling is talk of Daniel's cause of death being unexplained in news reports of 1921. In a flashback to his death, blood is clearly seen around his head. Even 95 years ago, medical examiners were advanced enough to detect the presence of a bleeding head wound. Death, murder, and ghosts are themes, but this isn't too scary or sexy for tweens, probably just too boring.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Spirit of Christmas' premise -- that a ghost who died 95 years before but is only visible to humans 12 days per year can just decide to quit that death thing and live life as a regular person. Can you think of how the filmmakers could have explained this better?
The movie compares 1921 to the present day, showing that people then suffered under the same pressures of today. They had money worries that moved them to turn to crime and romantic relationships that generated jealousy and betrayal. In what ways do you think the two eras differ?
How does this Christmas story compare to other holiday movies?
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