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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Holiday Joy follows a teen who wishes for a different life, but when her wish comes true, things aren't as she expected. The story is easy to follow (though very young kids might not understand how she swapped families) and has some decent messages about being thankful for family even when it isn't perfect. Expect to see some sibling spats, hear some marginal language ("hell," "sucks," and "bite me") and a reference to teens having sex, and know that a supporting character has a history of drug abuse. There's also a scene that involves a BB gun and two teens seeming to hold up a store with it. This isn't destined to be a classic, but it's a good reminder that things (and people) aren't always what they seem.
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What's the Story?
In HOLIDAY JOY, ever since her mom's death, Joy Hockstatter (Bailee Madison) has had to take over a lot of new responsibilities for her family, including keeping her dad (French Stewart) and older brother, Zack (Luke Bilyk), on track and mothering her younger brother, Miles (Ethan Pugiotto). Feeling frustrated and unappreciated, she daydreams about the kind of charmed life she sees next door at the Wellmans' house. After an accident, she finds herself in just that life as Joy Wellman, daughter to Rod (Sandy Jobin-Bevans) and Marcie (Jennifer Robertson) and younger sister to Eve (Natalie Ganzhorn). She's also one half of the school's cutest couple, a star volleyball player, and more popular than she could have imagined. But as Joy settles into this new reality, she discovers that for all its glamour, it's not quite the dream she built it up to be.
Is It Any Good?
This holiday movie's themes about contentedness and appreciation are familiar ground in life-swapping stories, making the story predictable from nearly the first scene. It's also mundanely written and lacking any pizzazz, always feeling like it's building to something significant but ultimately falling short. It's an unfortunate plight for the likes of Bailee Madison and French Stewart, who can't quite work enough magic to overcome the story's flaws.
Even so, Holiday Joy is mostly devoid of iffy content, and the reminders about appreciating the blessings you have rather than pining for those you don't are worth hearing again, especially during the Christmas season. And while the story glosses over the loss of Joy's mother, it shows the lingering effects of her death on everyone in the family, which can inspire worthwhile discussions with your kids about loss, grief, and healing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about whether they can understand how Joy feels at the beginning of Holiday Joy. Have you ever wished for a different life or situation? Do you think that it would solve all your problems to swap?
What kinds of things are easy to take for granted? Why is it important to show appreciation even for the simplest things or gestures?
Is it possible to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes"? How does looking at something from a different perspective help us to be kinder and more compassionate toward others?
- Premiere date: December 8, 2016
- Cast: Bailee Madison, French Stewart, Jennifer Robertson
- Network: Freeform
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, High School, Holidays
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: September 28, 2020
Our Editors Recommend
Mother-daughter switch is fun comedic chaos.
It's a Wonderful Life
This classic delivers warmth all year long.
Peppy holiday favorite for both kids and parents.
For kids who love holiday movies
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