2022 | rated PG | starring Peter Billingsley, Erinn Hayes, Julie Hagerty, RD Robb, Scott Schwartz | directed by Clay Kaytis | 1h 38m |
When all-grown up Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), husband and father of two kids, gets the call that his old man has passed away, Ralphie and family head back to his mom’s (Julie Hagerty) house on his childhood street and embarking on an epic attempt to recreate the Christmas magic his father did amidst carolers, money problems, writer’s block, neighborhood bullies and triple-dog dares.
While A Christmas Story Christmas is going to fit the family entertainment bill just fine, an adult’s appreciation for it is going to directly correlate with what they feel about A Christmas Story, Bob Clark’s over-saturated modern holiday classic that regularly runs on a 24-hour loop on Christmas day. I love Clark’s film, it’s witty, sardonic sense of humor, the way it survey’s holiday traditions and the way it captures what it’s like to be a kid and want a toy so much it becomes a soul-consuming obsession. This sequel is a remarkable achievement, one that finds that just right balance between a loving homage to the original film without rehashing over it’s plot points. When A Christmas Story Christmas calls back to A Christmas Story it feels less like a nostalgia grab and more like it’s characters simply exist in the same world, one that is recreated aesthetically and tonally out of obvious affection by director Clay Kaytis (The Christmas Chronicles).
Much of the credit for the film goes to Peter Billingsley. I have to imagine Billingsley has been living with Ralphie all of his life and is entirely committed to preserving the world of A Christmas Story. He co-writes the film bringing the character into adult hood exactly as you’d imagine him. An opening scene where the now-budding writer imagines himself winning an award for his novel (with 100% of the vote including from his competitors) show’s Ralphie’s over-dramatic imagination hasn’t flagged a bit with age. He nails A Christmas Story’s unrivaled sense of humor, applying Ralphie’s unique narration to create new adventures out of everyday observations. A running gag where the men at the local bar freeze with fear when the phone rings and they wait to see whose wife is calling them home would be perfectly at home in Clark’s film.
There is a solid, heartfelt backbone of a story here. With Ralphie stepping into his father’s shoes, the film recasts him as a Clark Griswold type, determined to give his grieving mother and kids a happy Christmas. His efforts result in frequent trips to the ER and talking his way around the suspicions of his children. The movie is filled with great little set pieces, from his mother’s fear of carolers to Ralphie’s mad dash through a department store on a shopping spree to a family snowball fight rematch with Black Bart and the return of Scott Farkus. Childhood friends Schwartz and Flick return with RD Robb and Scott Schwartz reprising their roles, now bar regulars who haven’t really grown up.
Earlier this year, Top Gun: Maverick soared to box office success by delivering the audience exactly what they wanted. A sequel decades after the original that knew just what points we wanted to see hit while delivering a fresh new story in the same vein, with the same passion. A Christmas Story Christmas delivers in exactly the same way. Not to knock some previous years Christmas favorites, I love them all, but after movies like Krampus, Rare Exports, Anna and the Apocalypse and Better Watch Out it’s a nice change of pace to see a Christmas movie that is an honest, heart-felt, unironic celebration of the season’s family traditions.
Christmas Story Christmas is funny, it’s warm, the story comes together really well and it feels like a worthy successor to the original film. That’s as big a compliment as it get for a movie as well loved as A Christmas Story. They did a great job with this movie. Highly recommended.