Where to stream it? HBO Max
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Erinn Hayes, Julie Hagerty, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Zack Ward
Directed by: Clay Kaytis
Intro: A Christmas Story Christmas Review
While preparing for this review, I stumbled upon an unexpected rabbit hole. The characters featured in the 1983 classic holiday film A Christmas Story exist in a cinematic universe of sorts that spans a total of eight movies (you can read a good summary of them from the Force Five Podcast here).
This is, of course, in addition to the musical based on a A Christmas Story and it’s own live, made-for-TV movie musical adaptation.
Suffice to say, the tale of Ralphie Parker from A Christmas Story has been told many times over. And in large part, we’ve forgotten about it.
The recent sequel, dubbed A Christmas Story Christmas, has no chance of outshining its most famous predecessor. But at least there is finally a chance the Ralphie Parker Cinematic Universe™ will be remembered for more than one film.
Memories of Christmas Past
The sequel takes place in the 1970s, more than thirty years after the events of A Christmas Story. Much of the original cast returns, including Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, who also produced the film and co-wrote the plot.
We find our grown-up Ralphie as a middle-aged father of two living in Chicago with his wife, Sandy (Erinn Hayes). He aspires to finally publish a novel and has set a deadline for himself to get a book deal by the end of the year or else he will return to the “rat race.”
His parents typically visit Ralphie and his family in Chicago for Christmas, but after the unexpected passing of his father, he decides to return to his childhood home in Indiana. Now he is tasked with creating a meaningful holiday celebration for his family, despite mourning his old man and getting passed on by a series of publishers for his novel.
In his hometown he encounters several familiar faces from the previous movie. Most of the original cast returns, with only Ralphie's mom (now played by Julie Hagerty) getting recast due to Melinda Dillon's retirement from acting in 2007.
Here We Are as in Olden Days
The movie could have easily rehashed the plot of the original film by focusing on Ralphie’s children and their quest to get a Christmas gift. What they choose to do to instead is create an original story.
As the first line of the sequel states, “when you’re a kid all you want is the perfect Christmas gift, when you’re a parent all you want is for Christmas to be perfect.”
This isn’t the same story about a child who wants a Red Ryder BB gun. It’s an adult’s story about loss, nostalgia, and fatherhood at Christmastime. Despite that, there are significant homages to the original film.
Camera shots mimic the previous film’s scenes. The story is presented once again as a memoir, complete with Ralphie’s narration and a couple cheesy fantasy sequences to boot.
Many viewers will smile with recognition at moments that capture the life of a middle American family in the 70s. Just as before, this film is cozy and nostalgic with a dash of irreverence.
That isn’t to say the film is immune from leaning on the original as a bit of a crutch at times. Familiar props from the first movie are shoehorned into the sequel and they use footage from the first movie in flashbacks enough times it starts to get redundant.
Like a beautiful Christmas package, though, everything is tied up with a pretty bow by the end for the movie’s most sentimental moments.
Final Thoughts: A Christmas Story Christmas Review
This film cannot possibly match the success of its predecessor, and it is the lesser of the two films. As a companion piece, though, it makes for a pleasant return to the world of Ralphie Parker.
Funny, poignant, and full of nostalgic charm, A Christmas Story Christmas is a must-watch for your holiday binge list this year.