Home Is Where The Heart Is parents guide

Home Is Where The Heart Is Parent Review

Overall C

After the death of their mother (Joan Van Ark), half-sisters Cotton (Bailee Madison) and Sunny (Laura Bell Bundy) try to hang onto the thin family ties that bind them together.

Violence C
Sexual Content C-
Profanity C+
Substance Use D+

Home Is Where The Heart Is is rated PG-13 for thematic material, substance abuse, some violence and language.

Movie Review

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and the same is true for movie boxes. Take Home is Where the Heart is for instance. The package features two smiling young girls tenderly embracing a horse. The tag line reads, “Its never too late for a new start.” From that, plus a few clues found in the plot summary written on the back, I guessed it would be a sentimental story about reuniting a family and saving a small town—with some equine help. I was wrong.

The female faces are those of the lead characters, ten-year-old Cotton (Bailee Madison) and her estranged half-sister Sunny (Laura Bell Bundy). Although Cotton does seem as sweet as candy, her young life has been soured caring for her single mom (cameo by Joan Van Ark) and easing the ailing woman’s pain (and perhaps addiction) with liquor supplied from the local bartender (Jonathan Banks). On the day of her mother’s death, the twenty-something Sunny (Laura Bell Bundy) returns from LA, bringing with her a dark cloud of hard living and unrealized tinsel town dreams. With no other relatives to turn to, Sunny reluctantly agrees to be Cotton’s guardian, even though she is obviously not well equipped for the job.

The horse (that really plays only a minor part in the plot) lives next door with his owner Butch (Conrad Goode), a former football player with no apparent life goals. Still he is the most responsible adult about, so he’s fallen into the habit of keeping a watchful eye on Cotton. While doing so he happens to witness the visit of Sunny’s former flame Jackson (Rhett Giles) when he drunkenly drives up to the girls’ house hoping to reignite their relationship. His refusal to accept Sunny’s rebuff sparks Butch’s protective instinct to encompass the beautiful blonde too.

The community that needs saving is Bent Arrow, Texas. The only business there that isn’t drying up is the pub where Cotton used to get her mother’s medicine. Unfortunately most of the regular customers (including one played by John C. McGinley) don’t pay their tab and the proprietor is on the brink of financial ruin. Yet that doesn’t stop him from handing out bottles of beer or serving drinks throughout the entire movie.

As expected Butch, who happens to play guitar, falls in love with Sunny, who happens to have an amazing sing voice. Not only does this provide the possibility of a perfect family situation for Cotton (plus a few musical numbers), but it also offers hope for saving the struggling watering hole when the pair decides to perform a concert at the bar. (Remember though, this film doesn’t live up to its happy-ever-after promises.)

The most unexpected thing about this movie is the amount of content concerns it crams into the two hour run time. All of the characters (except Cotton) engage in the aforementioned alcohol consumption, often to the point of inebriation (a couple of background cast members are depicted as unconscious), and one even combines booze will pills (resulting in a medical emergency). However, no connection is made in the script between drinking and the negative consequence the characters are experiencing, although there is a short conversation about a drunk driving accident. Unmarried sexual relationships are implied and one encounter is shown with some detail (the couple undresses and lay on top of one another while kissing passionately). A man physically abuses a woman by putting her in a chokehold until she retaliates by kicking him in the groin. And there is a smattering of profanities, crude slang and terms of deity used as expletives.

While Cotton may be commendable for hanging onto her hope—audiences are likely to lose theirs when they discover the film isn’t as family friendly as the box art suggests.

Directed by Rajeev Dassani. Starring Bailee Madison, Laura Bell Bundy, Conrad Goode, Jonathan Banks, John C. McGinley. Running time: 116 minutes. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Home Is Where The Heart Is here.

Home Is Where The Heart Is Parents Guide

Sunny claims she has a habit of messing up everything in her life. What things does she do that impact even her good opportunities? Do you think she understands the connection between her choices and the negative consequences she experiences?

How does alcohol consumption affect the various characters in this movie? Even though Cotton doesn’t drink, how has alcohol affected her life?

The movie begins and ends with a speech about hope. Do you feel that the story supports the narrator’s observations? Where would you find hope if you were in the situation depicted here?