CHRISTMAS MOVIE REVIEW: “A Christmas Story Christmas” stars Peter Billingsley (Spider-Man: Far From Home, A Case of You), Erinn Hayes (They Came Together, Bill & Tedd Face the Music), River Drosche (Miracle Workers [TV series], Bunk’d [TV series]), Julianna Layne (Prodigal Son [TV series], A Christmas Karen), Julie Hagerty (Airplane!, Marriage Story ), Scott Schwartz (The Toy, A Wrestling Christmas Miracle), R.D. Robb (Matilda , The Brady Bunch Movie), Henry Miller (Line of Duty [TV series], Pennyworth [TV series]), and Zack Ward (Transformers , Postal). It is directed by Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie, The Christmas Chronicles), who wrote the screenplay with Nick Schenk (Gran Torino, The Judge ).
After hearing of the passing of his old man, Ralphie Parker (Billingsley) and his family return to his childhood home for the holiday season, forcing struggling novelist Ralphie to fix things by giving everyone the “best Christmas ever.”
What’s this? Another Christmas film review? Yes folks, today was a double-feature. Because when your review site is closing its doors, it’s best to have a clearance sale (“everything must be reviewed”). So without further ado, let’s talk about the supposedly “long-awaited” sequel to a Christmas classic, “A Christmas Story Christmas.”
I flew back home for the holidays this past week, and my dad insisted that the family not see “A Christmas Story Christmas” until we were all under the same roof. That’s because on Christmas Day for the last… well, however many years, we would play “A Christmas Story” on repeat; from the morning until later in the afternoon (essentially, until someone got so sick of it, they changed it). It’s a tradition built on a flick that used to scare me as a child, what with its glossy cinematography, scary mall Santa, and terrifying Black Bart. When word broke that the original Ralphie was returning with a sequel, our family knew we had to make a big deal of it. And that we did.
For those thinking that “A Christmas Story Christmas” is entirely unwarranted, you are completely right. It doesn’t need to exist, nor is there closure that needs to be given. Do we need to see how Ralphie fairs as an adult in the 70s? No. But Peter Billingsley was convinced to return, so why not give it a shot? Despite my average-to-low expectations, he and his team managed to deliver a serviceable follow-up that reminisces on the first outing while not trying to be anything better.
The setting and style of this are the strong suits. I love period pieces, and this sequel pulled from one of the best eras visually (for me). From a cinematography standpoint, the filmmakers also managed to pay great homage to the original picture – by leaning into the dream-like nature of shots and storytelling – while giving it enough new polish to not have it be so creepy (because I must admit, there is still a discomfort found in the look of the first one). I believe that Billingsley and his team had a great deal of fun embarking on this sequel, as they got to revisit the classic home and bring back quite a few of the original actors. It’s a personal project through and through with enough predictable family sap to glue the story structure together.
Ralphie’s greatest obstacle in this is to provide his family with the best Christmas ever. A feat that he believed his father to have pulled off, and feared that with the old man gone he could never live up. Oddly enough, I know of quite a few Christmas titles where the main objective is for a patriarch (or some family head) to deliver the best Christmas possible. Comedy and dysfunction usually ensues, with the inevitable message being “nothing is perfect” and that a good Christmas can sprung from such great dysfunction. Such is the case with “A Christmas Story Christmas.” Ralphie walks down the same path Clark Griswold did, or Howard Langston (“Jingle All the Way”). Never tell a father he can’t grant the best Christmas ever. Because he will try his darndest, to great comedic fail. Yet, in spite of such great predictability, this feature does manage to stir up some warmth and joy, particularly in the moments they look back on, and the former Old Man that they honor.
Did the Old Man from the first one really deliver on a great Christmas? Not to me. If anything, he seemed like he was in control of nothing. But I guess giving Ralphie the coveted Red Ryder bb gun really left a solid impression for the kid who would become an adult in this. I thought Billingsley retained his role well, and got some solid performers to carve out his supporting cast. Seeing him chum up with the other former kid stars of the original was a nice sentiment; it’s not like they were the greatest actors in the world, but seeing the band get back together blanketed everything. And I couldn’t help but resonate with ole Ralphie as he was trying to complete a masterpiece of literature. So… there’s a few elements that attracted me to this.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” is by no means a dud, but it certainly doesn’t blow you away. There’s great appeal in revisiting this world and some of the original actors who grew up in it, but outside of that, it’s your run-of-the-mill dad-trying-to-save-Christmas story. If you are a fan of the original, I say to at least give it a shot. There are fun moments, and when you have a family tradition surrounding Ralphie and those huge glasses, you take joy in unwrapping something new (albeit familiar). FINAL SCORE: 73%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: