A Christmas Story…Story? No way. Come on, Hollywood. You’ll shoot your collective eye out.
BQB here with a review.
Actually, it’s not so bad.
If you own a TV, then surely you have seen 1983’s A Christmas Story. TBS runs it 24 hours a day on Christmas and I can still recall laughing up a storm the first time I saw it. Even years later, having seen it a zillion times, it’s hard not to leave it on in the background while you go about your holiday merriment.
Alas, the sequels didn’t come until much later, presumably because the film didn’t really become the much beloved classic until cable TV started blasting the crap out of it over the airwaves in the 1990s. By then I can only presume all involved had moved on and unable to make a sequel. Either that or is a single ever possible for such a great film?
Ah but once the film grew a big fanbase, the sequels were attempted. 1994’s My Summer Story is largely unknown. 2012’s straight to video A Christmas Story 2 was cute but ultimately forgettable.
Thus I was surprised a new sequel was attempted this year.. It stars original Ralphie Peter Billingsley, though when I first learned that I doubted if that was enough to save it. Turns out, the answer is a resounding, “Not bad.”
The plot? in the 1970s, Middle aged Ralphie lives in Chicago with wife Sandy (Erin Hayes) and kids Mark and Julie. Ralphie has taken a year off to write an epic sci-fi novel, which seems like something Ralphie would do, given his love of pop culture and all things nerdy as a kid in the original film.
Alas, the publishing houses have all told Ralphie to eat the proverbial big one and as the end of the year draws nigh, he knows he needs to either publish or perish, to make money on a writing career or give up and take a boring old job and get a steady paycheck.
At least he has a planned Christmas visit with his parents to look forward to, but sadly, his old man, “The Old Man” passes and a loving tribute to the late Darren McGavin, who passed in 2006, is paid.
Ah, but the older we get, the more adults tend to, well I was going to say they don’t fear death but they still do, it’s just, by the time you’ve hit the elderly stage, you’ve run out of tears to cry, for you have experience so much loss already. This, Ralphie’s mom (played by Airplane comedy legend and owner of the sweetest voice ever Julie Hagerty who takes on the role as Melinda Dillon has retired from acting) urges Ralphie, Sandy and the kids to buck up and have the best Christmas ever, for this is what the Old Man would have wanted.
Comedy hijinx are mixed with somber moments. There are plenty of Easter eggs and references to the original film, while this one tries its best not to so much repeat old gags but play homage to them, or at least repeat running themes. Adult Ralphie still has a wild imagination that gets him into trouble and riddles him with anxiety as he pictures the smallest hangup leading to horrifying consequences. Bullies go to war with Ralphie’s kids who must learn to stand up for themselves. Comical injuries abound. Ralphie still wants to be an old west sheriff because what Baby Boomer didn’t?
A cavalcade of ex-child actors from the original film, now all grown up and in the middle of life, stop by, and it is surreal. Not knocking anyone but as you see adult actors reprise roles like Flick (the kid whose tongue froze to the light pole) or Schwartz (was he the kid who double dog dared him? I forget) and the once evil bully Scott Farkus (can bad kids mend their ways in adulthood?) you can’t help but think time is really a bastard. All these kids were so cute once and Hollywood was happy to capitalize on their cuteness, but sadly none of them really grew up with the looks that Hollywood wants to see in leading men. Even so, as a fan I’m happy to see them, like walking around your home town and bumping into an old friend. Even Ralphie’s little bro, an all grown up Randy drops by.
Does it all add up to something? I don’t want to give it away but if you think about how adult Ralphie yearns to be a famous writer, and author Jean Carroll leant his iconic voice to the original film but did so in the role of adult Ralphie telling the story of one wacky Christmas in his youth…OK I’ll let you figure it ou.
STATUS: Shelfworthy. If you have HBO Max, it’s free and worth your time. It won’t win awards. It won’t be something you’ll want to watch again and again. What it is is a loving tribute, a rare sequel that straddles the line between capitalizing on your love of the old flick but still remaining true to its spirit. There are sad moments, funny moments, emotional moments. If you’ve ever lost a parent, you know the pain adult Ralphie experience, the expectation of an adult to keep moving on even though a person who comprised a large part of their world has shuffled off the mortal coil. Everyone involved did well here.