In a small town, high-school dean Alana and her vivacious teenage daughter, Samantha, plan a holiday concert to save the school with the help of the new maintenance man, Army veteran Johnny, and his quiet son, Max. But when a car accident lands Sam in a life-threatening condition, Alana turns to Johnny for support, and Max makes a desperate decision that will forever bond their families together. All four must question their values about sacrifice, family, forgiveness and love — and what it means to be thankful for another Christmas.
Christmastime in the wholesome town of Middleton is special and celebrated. Even before Christmas season hits, Samantha D’Angelo (Kennedy Tucker) practices her cheer routine to Christmas music, as her school, Middleton Prep, begins the blueprints for a fantastic Christmas show for the community. However, Sam’s mother and headmistress for the prep school, Alana D’Angelo (Eileen Davidson), has other worries as she is faced with a funding shortfall which could endanger the school’s continuation.
In the meantime, she interviews a capable custodial applicant, Johnny Turner (Michael Pare), a war vet slowed a bit by PTSD. Johnny and son Max (Michael Varde) have moved from town to town as Johnny can’t seem to find a place called “home.” Obviously not as privileged as the D’Angelos, Johnny is graciously offered free tuition for Max as a generous bonus. As a very attentive dad, Johnny gratefully accepts, knowing this will help Max go to college–if he can bring himself to stay in town that long…
But as in any high school milieu, there’s teen drama. Kindhearted and direct, Sam admonishes her GQ, Auburn-bound beau, Lucas (Trevor Stines), for goading Max about his and Johnny’s “status.” But to no avail. Having been marinated by life, Max rises above petty high school jeers, smiles and walks away. In science class, the teens discover that Sam, Lucas, and Max all have the same rare blood type. A seed of realization sprouts when the teacher observes, “Although we’re all different, we can be very much the same.”
Meanwhile, Alana realizes she enjoys talking with Johnny, the disparity of privilege seeming to bother Johnny more than Alana; yet, they communicate well. However, the school’s financial woes preoccupy Alana until she discovers the Christmas show would be a perfect fundraiser for the beloved school. This, however, is not good for Lucas, who becomes less and less thrilled as he notices Sam spending some time with Max preparing sets for the Christmas show. Finally, he confronts Sam who admits she’s not traveling on the same path. Leaving school, Sam distractedly runs a stop sign and is hospitalized, desperately needing a kidney transplant. Through this harrowing event, Johnny takes the reins and reassures Alana, holding her together. It is here that we are surprised to see an unexpected, but life saving offer to donate a kidney to Sam, an act of true sacrifice.
Middleton Christmas is a positive teen story set in a comfortable, small town—one that honors and celebrates Christmas (even though Christ isn’t mentioned). It carries the important message that people have just as much worth, whether privileged and wealthy or not. It serves to remind us that each of us has our own gifts that we can use to help others.
The acting is strong and convincing; Michael Pare delivers an excellent performance, creating a personality layered with courage, fear, injury, and strength. The film also includes a strong overall message with high production quality, direction, and performances. The producers were careful with language and other offensive elements while preserving a great story, so Dove awards Middleton Christmas the All Ages Seal of Approval.
The Dove Take:
A film which honors sacrifice and commitment, Middleton Christmas is a sweet teen drama that finds unique worth in people from all walks of life.