Much less cynical than you’d think.
I think it’s fair to say that A Christmas Story Christmas is coming in at a steep uphill climb with its release. It doesn’t help that the trailer showed off a very cynical attempt at grabbing nostalgia for a film that came out nearly 40 years ago and one that many of us are sick of hearing about every year. Oh, A Christmas Story plays for 24 hours every Christmas? We all know at least one person who is a little too obsessed with A Christmas Story and falls into the same personality pit as that asshole from high school who let everyone know they could recite the entire script from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Listen, Brenda, it stopped being cute long before your kids hit college age that you still say “oh fudge” when you drop something on purpose so you can say the line.
And of course the less said about A Christmas Story 2 the better. A Christmas Story Christmas takes place over 30 years after the events of A Christmas Story. The persistently baby-faced Peter Billingsley reprises his role as Ralphie who is now an adult with children of his own, and Erinn Hayes plays his wife Sandy Parker in an effort to convince the audience that Ralphie would eventually grow up to make sex. I’m not saying this to maintain some semblance of childhood innocence, I just can’t look at Peter Billingsly and see a man who ever shot a girl’s eye out with his red rider if you get my drift. He’s been engaged to Buffy Bains since 2015 and I’m betting he can’t wait to see his first naked lady in person. I’m sorry if Peter Billingsly ever somehow stumbles on this review, I’m sure he’s a nice guy in real life.
A Christmas Story Christmas dips its toes into nostalgia without every fully going for a swim, and that’s one of the best things I can say about it. Directed by Clay Kaytis, who you may recognize as being an animator during the golden era of 90s Disney movies, the film was also produced by uh…Vince Vaughn. Yeah I didn’t see that coming either. Ralphie goes back home to be with his mom played by Julie Hagerty while his children Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne) deal with their own problems. The Old Man recently passed away and it’s Ralphie’s job to make the family’s Christmas a good one. And dad made it look so easy even though it definitely wasn’t.
One thing that shocked me about A Christmas Story Christmas is that the film doesn’t retread old ground. It is chock full of b-roll audio footage from the first movie for cheap nostalgia, but they didn’t set out to create the movie again. There aren’t any scenes that clone the bunny costume, the leg lamp, the fight, the tongue, the dogs, the Ovaltine, the Chinese dinner, the gun, the rude Santa, etc. Ralphie’s children aren’t meant to feel like Ralphie and Randy. It is without a doubt its own film and it’s obvious that Peter Billingsly who had a big hand in producing and writing this movie put some time and effort into making it something unique.
The worst thing about A Christmas Story Christmas is that it tries to be a long sequel and a direct sequel if you know what I mean. Its characters only appear to exist between the two films. Ralphie’s memories of his childhood center 100% around the events of the first movie. He talks about suddenly being in charge of Christmas like his kids aren’t roughly ten years old and he has never done it before. I will say the movie does a good job of keeping its priorities. I also found some of Ralphie’s daydreams to be a little creepy this time around because they have very similar childlike stupidity to when he was a kid and I’ll remind you he’s a 50 year old man who has made the sex enough times to have two children of his own.
It reminds me of the All Grown Up spinoff of Rugrats where the characters were teenagers but still kinda had their infant version’s personalities.
My favorite character in all of this is the return of Scut Farkus, played once again by the venerable Zack Ward. Farkus is the only one still in town that feels like he’s grown up and had a real life in the interim, where Flick and Schwartz (also played by their child actors) are basically the same people. Yano Anaya is back as Grover Dill in a very short dream sequence. It’s nice seeing adult Anaya, the guy literally hasn’t done shit in Hollywood since 1988 meaning he hasn’t been in a film since before many of our readers were born. It would have been nice if the bully subplot had more meat to it. The bullies aren’t even given names and we don’t really see their faces at all.
I’ve seen enough cheap, shitty, cynically made films that I think I can identify one when I see it, and A Christmas Story Christmas doesn’t feel cheap, cynically made, or shitty. Even if you’ve long since gotten tired of the first movie, I can’t see people being offended by this sequel. It might have been nice to have Melinda Dillon back as the mom, but she did retire in 2007 and wants nothing to do with acting anymore. It’s nothing mind blowing, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I feared it would be.