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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spirit Riding Free: Spirit of Christmas is a holiday movie from the Netflix series Spirit Riding Free. The story centers on a fearless and determined tween who bends a few rules to make sure that she has her father's gift in time for the holiday but finds herself and her friends in danger when a snowstorm derails their train and leaves them stranded far from home. The situation challenges her resourcefulness and skill as a leader and forces her to make a selfless decision for the good of the group. The story touches on grief as it relates to characters' losses of loved ones and emphasizes the need for a spirit of gratitude regardless of circumstance. Expect some tense moments as the train veers off its tracks and the passengers briefly fear their fate, but overall this holiday special has heartwarming messages for fans of the show.
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What's the story?
It's nearly Christmas, and the small town of Miradero is bustling with activity in SPIRIT RIDING FREE: SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS. There's a pageant to be planned, treats to bake, and, of course, gifts to buy. Lucky Prescott (voiced by Amber Frank) can hardly contain her excitement over surprising her father with a special new fiddle just in time to play it in the town's holiday performance, but when she gets word that it won't be delivered in time, she boards the train with her friends and their horses on Christmas Eve and heads to the city to retrieve it herself. As they race the clock to return home before they're discovered, Lucky, Pru (Sydney Park), Abigail (Bailey Gambertoglio), Maricela (Darcy Rose Byrnes), and Snips (Duncan Joiner) get waylaid by unexpected events in the city, and then their train derails in a snowstorm, leaving them stranded far from home. It will take a Christmas miracle -- or perhaps just the will of determined young Lucky -- to get themselves and the other passengers to safety in time for the holiday.
Is it any good?
This Christmas movie has the feel of a requisite series add-on rather than an inspired holiday tale, but it still manages to tug at the heartstrings at opportune times. Inexplicably the story mostly dismisses the relationships that Lucky and her friends share with their respective horses, relegating the animals to mere afterthoughts who only get screen time because the kids (for reasons unknown) bring them along to the big city. Instead the story more closely follows the girls' infatuation with their favorite singer, Sally Jessup (Katherine McNamara), whom they meet by chance on their trip, and their older-than-their-years spunk that helps lead all of the stranded passengers to safety.
Spirit Riding Free: Spirit of Christmas is a must see for fans of the series as a whole, but kids who don't already know the characters and their histories will have a difficult time jumping into their timeline with this particular story. Happily, though, the movie emphasizes themes that are perfect for the Christmas season, in particular the joys of gift giving, appreciating what you have, and connecting with new friends over shared experiences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the spirit of giving during the Christmas season. What does it mean to say it's better to give than to receive? How does giving reward the giver?
How does this movie portray life in the frontier West? Do the characters and their mannerisms match reality of that time?
How does Lucky's selflessness and determination save the day? What does she learn about gratitude and appreciation from her father? What other positive messages does Spirit Riding Free: Spirit of Christmas convey?
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