It’s not often these days that Hollywood comes out with a good movie — and I’m not being hyperbolic at all.
A little background. I’m a huge movie buff. I have a physical media collection closing in on 2,200 titles. I literally have an entire wall of my living room lined with nothing but shelving filled with movies. I never do movie reviews, but I felt after watching "A Christmas Story Christmas" - which was released on Thursday - that it warranted one.
Now that you know that about me, let’s get back to the reason you clicked on the link to bring you to this article — a review of “A Christmas Story Christmas,” which is a sequel to the 1983 classic, “A Christmas Story.”
You might think that a sequel coming out nearly 40 years after the original is nothing more than a cash grab or nostalgia bait in order to improve streaming numbers for HBO Max. Heck, I had some of those same thoughts. But, if you thought that like I did, we’d both be wrong.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” is absolutely wonderful! If you’re a fan of the original, you’ll completely fall in love with this movie more and more as it goes along. The run time comes in at a long enough, but not too long, one hour and 38 minutes.
I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so I’m just going to go over a few points that this movie does really well that are typically negatives for sequels and remakes.
Really quick, this isn’t a spoiler, as it’s alluded to in the trailer, but the plot centers around Ralphie’s dad (who was played in the original by the late Darren McGavin) passing away, and Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) taking his family to his hometown to comfort his mourning mother (played by a different actress, Julie Hagerty, than the original, Melinda Dillon). His mission is to save Christmas for his family since his late father, “The Old Man,” was the King of Christmas.
Back to non-spoiler parts that make this movie a must-watch.
Number one is that — and this is coming from someone who also remembers Christmases growing up quite fondly — Christmas and making it great for the entire family is the main plot point. It’s not like all those trash Hallmark movies where a 30-something female tries to find the love of her life while it just so happens that it’s Christmas.
Nope. This is a full-fledged, bonafide Christmas movie.
And while not everyone came back for this film, there was enough of the original cast in this movie that it felt close enough to the original.
And that brings us to the next point, nostalgia. These days, movies that are horribly written — which is most of them — get a bunch of nostalgia bait thrown into them to make up for the crappy script so that at least some people watch them. “A Christmas Story Christmas” does have a ton of nostalgia, but in a very good way.
The original was based on nostalgia as it was set around the late 1930s to early 1940s, whereas the new movie is set about 33 years later in 1973. If there was no nostalgia, neither of these movies would exist.
The flashbacks are seamlessly intertwined into the 1973 “present day” scenes. And not only do the flashbacks not take away or slow down the movie, they make you remember why the scene you’re watching is so important to the series. It’s almost as if you want to see the flashback just to confirm that the “present day” scene you’re watching connects to the past. This movie’s nostalgia gives the old movie the respect it deserves for being the classic Christmas movie that it still is and will continue to be.
Another point that gets lost on modern audiences is that children in the movie weren’t awful. In fact, Ralphie’s children (River Drosche and Julianna Layne) were a highlight. Too many times in today’s films the children are smarter than the parents, who seem like bumbling idiots waiting for their kids to be the voices of reason. Either that, or the kids are stuck playing the comic relief and just come off as unlikeable brats.
Not in this movie. The children were just that — children. They looked to their parents for guidance and truly wanted to believe in the “magic” of Christmas.
If you loved the original, this movie will make you very happy and run the emotional gamut. At different points in the movie — or sometimes in a single scene — you might smile, laugh and even shed a tear or two…stupid onion-cutting ninjas!
One thing you won’t feel if you have a functioning heart is anger. A lot of movies want to make you feel angry just so the parts where you’re supposed to feel happy or satisfied come through. The movie has plenty of heart, which is a nice substitute for the anger or depression usually shoved down our throats in today's cinema.
There are other plot points that I could mention, but then what would be the point of a no-spoiler review. I didn’t give away anything you couldn’t have discerned from watching the trailer yourself, but I wanted to leave enough on the table that made you use your imagination — which is a big part of both movies and contributes to what makes them so great.
Both kids and adults can have an imagination, and the use of that can help turn seemingly negative situations into positives.
And isn’t that what movies are supposed to be? An escape from everyday life where sometimes you can be reminded of just how good we have it — or had it — in our society?
I think so, and that’s why this movie just works — at least for me. Sometimes you just want to be entertained, and this movie does that in spades.
So, on the traditional four-star scale, I’d give “A Christmas Story Christmas” three-and-three-quarters stars.
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