“Dad said winter at home is so bleak that it crushes the human spirit.”
Justin’s rating: I’m not crying into my eggnog, you’re crying into your eggnog!
Justin’s review: You know what’s a surefire way to ruin a holiday classic? By burdening it with unnecessary sequels. By my count, A Christmas Story Christmas makes the third such sequel to the original 1983 Christmas Story, which also includes My Summer Story and A Christmas Story 2. But before you balk here, realize that this project got 51-year-old Peter Billingsley to come back to reprise his role as a now-adult Ralphie. The team also signed up Ian Petrella (Randy), Scott Schwartz (Flick), R. D. Robb (Schwartz), Zack Ward (Scut Farkus), and Yano Anaya (Grover Dill) from the original.
So how many eyes will we shoot out this time if we watch it?
Long gone is the era of the 1940 original; now it’s December 1973, and Ralphie is married and attempting to write the great (2,000-page) American novel before he’s forced to go back to work in the new year. And before you worry, yes, he’s still daydreaming and narrating his own life. It’s a little sadder when he’s a middle-aged adult, though.
It’s even more sad when the Parker family gets a call from his mom (a scarily ancient Julie Haggerty) that “The Old Man” passed away. So it ends up being an unexpected trip back to Indiana to have a Christmas back at his childhood homestead (which the studio painstakingly recreated) — and it has to be a wonderful Christmas that no one will ever forget. He’s now become the Clark Griswold, charged with manufacturing the best holiday season, even when all of the presents get stolen from in front of the hospital that he took his daughter to when he nearly killed her with a snowball.
As the name implies, A Christmas Story Christmas is the original reframed. Ralphie is now the dad, his kids are now subject to bullies and small town weirdness, his old friends are seen in their adult lives, and holiday traditions and goals are more or less how they’ve always been. What’s kind of surprising his how likable and charming these older guys are decades after their child actor days. Billingsley, in particular, perfectly encapsulates what an imaginative and passionate kid might grow up to be — namely, an affable parent and husband who genuinely cares for his family.
(He also takes over narration duties, doing a fine job in that department as well.)
I predict that some adults are going to be thrilled to see a whole parade of familiar toys from the early ’70s trotted out to choruses of “Hey, I used to have that!”
This isn’t going to be any sort of replacement or successor to the original, but A Christmas Story Christmas does just fine as passable entertainment that doesn’t ruin any memories. If anything, I found some of the bits pretty funny: a tense phone call in a bar, the arrival of loathed carolers, decorating a puberty tree, a snowball fight daydream sequence, another visit to the Santa slide, and a new triple-dog-dare.
A Christmas Story Christmas gets far more right than wrong, nailing the tone of the original while taking its own journey down holiday lane with a funky ’70s Christmas soundtrack. You probably won’t meet many people who’ve seen all the follow-ups to A Christmas Story, but I have, and I can tell you with that sort of first-hand experience that this is easily the best of them all.
- The old Warner Bros. logo
- Ah ’70s tupperware!
- Cereal with OJ
- “Oh Lord not more.”
- OK I may have choked up when he got the call about his dad
- The Midwest Souffle
- That’s a lot of cassaroles
- “His name’s Sparkley-Poo.” “We did not agree on that.”
- THEY MURDERED SPARKLEY POO!
- Nobody at a bar wants a phone call from home
- “It’s a fish tank for snakes and lizards. It’s very stimulating.”
- “Make them catch and kill their own turkey… oooh.”
- “Overthrow Castro!” “Ambitious, but we can do it.”
- The Easter bunny pajamas and leg lamp shade
- Carolers are like ticks
- When Ralphie’s mom finds out that Ralphie’s wife was a caroler: “How… could you?” “I didn’t know!”
- The axe or the chainsaw? Which should the kids play with?
- The monster tree scratching up the ceiling
- Parents like to make the kids decorate the tree
- “It’s not child labor if we don’t pay you.”
- Ralphie laying on the guilt thick to Randy — and then laughing conspiratorially at the camera
- I like that Ralphie’s wife Sandy has a pretty amusing personality of her own
- A Fistful of Snowballs
- All of the ’70s toys
- The Santa Claus slide!
- The kid interrogating Santa on North Pole longitude and latitutde
- Ralphie accidentally knocking his kid off a tree stump with a snowball
- “Dante’s lowest circle of bars”
- THE RAMP
- The sledding massacre
- “By the way, Mark broke his arm.”
- That’s a passive-aggressive Scrabble game
- Future Julie’s bad eye
- “He wants to know if I have more stories.”
- Randy’s inappropriate gifts