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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 Pete's Christmas is a gentle movie about a teen who repeats Christmas day until he learns lessons about love and kindness. This movie is squeaky-clean enough for every member of the family, and, since it includes characters ranging in age from grade schoolers to a grandpa, it has someone for viewers of various ages to relate to. Pete and the girl next-door flirt, and he tries to win her attention in respectful, friendly ways, such as learning her favorite Christmas carol on his guitar. Family members are kind and loving toward each other, though Pete and his older teen brother occasionally trade insults ("Dork!"). The only scene that will make parents wince is one in which teen boys play football and crash into each other thunderously; everything else is suitable for whole-family viewing, particularly during winter holiday vacations.
What's the story?
From Walden Media, the same company that brought you family-friendly entertainment such as Nim's Island and Bridge to Terabithia, PETE'S CHRISTMAS stars Zachary Gordon as Pete, who's 14, the middle kid in-between two brothers, and feels like he's the least special boy in the Kidder family. His older brother, Jake (Wesley Morgan), is a jock; little brother Kenny (Peter DaCunha) is a brain; and Pete just feels like a big nothing. To make things worse, his dad just got laid off from his job, his mom works all the time, the creepy twins up the street keep picking on him, his grumpy grandpa just showed up for Christmas -- and, for some reason, every day that he wakes up is Christmas. Over and over, the holiday repeats itself until Pete learns the real meaning of the holiday.
Is it any good?
The plot device of having a character relive a certain significant day until he learns whatever lessons fate is trying to teach him was a new one when it was used in Groundhog Day. By this point, the idea lacks a certain freshness. Nonetheless, those who haven't seen Groundhog Day (like, for instance, kids and teens), won't realize that this has been done before (and funnier) elsewhere, and will appreciate the cleverness of having Zach slowly learn the guitar or football moves as his day repeats.
Certainly the cast is charming enough, particularly Gordon as Pete. Clever move, Walden, casting a young beloved actor in the main role and a beloved older actor (Bruce Dern) as Grandpa. Otherwise, the characters are mostly forgettable. Still, watching Gordon and Dern bond as grandpa and grandson is the kind of holiday sweetness that's perfect for a family lazing away a few hours between turkey and pumpkin pie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Christmas movies are a popular film subgenre. Do you suppose filmmakers hope families will watch their films year after year, the same way they hang up the same decorations and make the same recipes?
Have you seen any other movies Zachary Gordon is in? Do you think the people who made this film hope that kids have seen him in movies such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and will watch this movie because of him?
If you had to live a day repeatedly, how would you change it? How would you change today, for instance, if you had the time to live over again?