My Summer Story (1994) — Ralphie shoots his top off

“The Old Man was losing it. I loved it when that happened!”

Justin’s rating: A $0.125 weekly allowance spent on the type of jawbreaker you don’t like.

Justin’s review: There is a type of follow-up film that I like to categorize as “shadow sequels” –lackluster or underperforming sequels to popular films that a lot of people have no idea even exist. Examples of this include Shock Treatment (Rocky Horror Picture Show’s sequel), Ace Ventura Jr., and Splash Too. If you’re like me, when you stumble across a shadow sequel, it’s nearly impossible to pass up a forbidden peek into realms that the public has overlooked.

This is all a preface for today’s feature, My Summer Story, which is an honest-to-God sequel to one of the most famous holiday movies ever made. You might remember a little flick called A Christmas Story that nailed the seasonal zeitgeist with BB guns, leg lamps, and triple-dog dares. While it took some time for A Christmas Story to finally come into its own, by the end of the ’80s, it was firmly a part of the annual holiday classics lineup.

So of course it makes sense that a sequel would be floated, except that by the time that the studio got around to it, all of A Christmas Story’s actors had either grown up or moved on (Disney made 1988’s Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss, the first Parker sequel, although that one is even less well-known). Thus, in 1993 we got My Summer Story with a recasted Ralphie, Randy, and the rest. In fact, the only person to return was author and narrator Jean Shepherd. That’s actually pretty cool, I think. His voice is so instrumental to A Christmas Story and helps a lot with us buying into the continuation of this cinematic universe.

Taking place in the summer after the famous Christmas of “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!,” My Summer Story follows various storylines in the Parker household. Ralphie goofs around on summer vacation, trying to become a spinning tops master, the Old Man goes to war against his hillbilly neighbors, and Mrs. Parker becomes obsessed with collecting a full set of free kitchenware. Just as in its predecessor, this movie is a chain of charming vignettes that give us a taste of a bygone era.

Still, there are stories that feel relatable, like trying to connect with your father over his hobby, going to a fair, or delighting in haggling with a candy store clerk. If there’s an overarching theme here, it’s one of fighting seemingly hopeless battles — and maybe winning one or two.

I think “charming” and “quaint” are the best terms that I can apply to My Summer Story. It’s not really as quotable nor as funny as A Christmas Story is, even though I think that Charles Grodin makes for a much better Old Man. On the other hand, this version of Ralphie (played by Macaulay Culkin’s younger brother Kieran) doesn’t do anything to stand out or make us like him. If you’re feeling in the mood to be told colorful stories of someone else’s childhood, then this will fill up a couple of hours. Just don’t expect that this film has hidden depths.

But a hugely disappointing box office and an uncaring public sentenced My Summer Story to the dustbin, while A Christmas Story 2 came along many years later and effectively wiped the memory of the true sequel off the map. Well, I remember, Ralphie. I remember. And I will drink my Ovaltine.

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