A more dangerous problem with the film, however, isn’t the cheesy lines or even the baffling pace at which the characters “get it.” There are some real issues with the main crux of the film: that Pete must learn to be selfless and loving before his life can get back to normal. This plot would naturally come about because Pete was a selfish kid who had been contributing to family angst, correct? (no one would deny that Kevin from Home Alone was totally self-absorbed, even if his family also had issues – all of which were admitted and repented of later)

However, that’s not what’s set-up in Pete’s Christmas. Before the magic repetition starts, it’s painfully clear to the audience that Pete seems to be a somewhat normal kid very reasonably depressed by his buffoonish family. He is blamed for everything – even things that make no sense and couldn’t possibly be his fault. His brothers are outright liars and purposefully exclude Pete from everything they do. Both parents are oblivious and distracted to the point of forgetting to get Pete anything for Christmas…and then just brushing it off with a quick apology and expecting him to get over it. To boot, Grandpa even calls him the wrong name.

Pete isn’t really the one that needs to learn the lesson, methinks.

Of course, he’s told over and over again that he needs to “get serious” about something (apparently he’s had too many hobbies for his parents to keep track of) and supposedly the issues he faces are just normal struggles of middle children (though as a fellow middle child myself, I can’t say I agree). Thus, he spends a large portion of the movie perfecting the guitar (since he has so much time to practice) and developing a deep appreciation for his mostly incompetent family. Even at the end, when a sincere time of deep apologies all around might be appropriate, none arrives. We are left with a family that blames its problems on Pete, and a plot which assumes that Pete (if given enough chances) can fix everything for everyone – even when he didn’t create the problems to begin with.

Add this questionable set-up for the main lesson to the meandering plot and subplots, and you have this reviewer’s biggest issues with Pete’s Christmas.

“If you ever get a second chance to do the right thing, then you grab it,” advises Grandpa Kidder, near the end of the film. “And for goodness sake, hold onto it with both hands.” Even coming through a convoluted movie, this is certainly an idea audience members can affirm. Pete takes this to heart, and (at long last) realizes that “it doesn’t matter what you get out of [life]…what really matters is what you put into it.”

Ending the story with these noble sentiments, and images of a family knitted closer together through one crazy experience, may indeed warm your heart. One can only hope it warms you to forgive and move past the madness and frustration that plague the rest of the movie!

Cautions

About as clean as it gets. There is some teasing/bullying, a married couple flirts, a boy vomits on another boy (the mess is not shown), and a small portion of a teen boy’s boxers are briefly shown when he rips his pants.

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com,

Publication date: November 8, 2013