Julien Neaves, Editor
Plot: The plan of a grown-up Ralph “Ralphie” Parker to celebrate Christmas with his family is hindered by tragedy and his struggles to become a professional writer.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
Review: Hey Red Mango Readers. Hope everyone is having a safe and enjoyable holiday season. I love the Christmas season and I have a longstanding tradition of watching two movies every year: It’s a Wonderful Life (currently watching) and 1983’s A Christmas Story (planning to watch tomorrow). The former lifts my heart every time I watch it and the latter makes me laugh repeatedly every time I watch it. When I heard they were doing a legacy sequel to A Christmas Story I was interested but apprehensive, as these belated comedy sequels usually don’t turn out well (take Dumb and Dumber To and Zoolander 2 as two examples). But I tried to go in with an open mind and you know what? I didn’t hate it.
Firstly, it must be noted that this is not the first sequel to the Christmas classic. There was the 1994’s My Summer Story (originally released in theatres as It Runs in the Family) and 2012’s A Christmas Story 2 which ignored the events of My Summer Story. Both films recast most of the parts from the original, did not receive the best of reviews and have fallen into obscurity. The critical reception for A Christmas Story Christmas (which ignores both previous sequels) has been generally more positive, and I can tell why. Peter Billingsey returns as adult Ralphie (he also co-wrote the script with Nick Schenk) and is the main reason for checking out this film. He does very well both in the comedic and dramatic aspects, his narration is thoughtful and amusing, and he is still a dreamer, leading to a couple of fun and outlandish dream sequences. One note though, his face is eerily similar to when he was a child actor, so you do get a weird photo aging app, uncanny valley experience when you see him. But you do get used to it eventually.
It’s December 1973 and our Little Orphan Annie Secret Society-decoding, Red Ryder BB gun-loving kid is all grown up, struggling to get his first novel published and living in Chicago with his wife, Sandy (Erinn Hayes), and two children of his own, Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne). The plan for his parents to visit from Hohman, Indiana for Christmas falls through when his mother calls with news that his father aka “The Old Man” has died. It was a wise choice not to recast the late, great Darren McGavin and the theme of Ralphie trying to create the best Christmas ever in the shadow of his passing is a touching one. They do recast Ralphie’s mother, however, with Airplane!’s Julie Haggerty taking over for Melinda Dillon. And Haggerty is okay, but she lacks the sweetness and kookiness that made Dillon’s performance so delightful.
Joining Billingsey in returning from the original are Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz and R. D. Robb, Zack Ward and Yano Anaya as Randy Parker (Ralphie’s little brother), Flick and Schwartz (his former schoolmates and friends), Scut Farkus and Grover Dill (his childhood bullies) respectively. Randy and Grover are barely in the movie, but it was nice seeing them again. Flick and Schwartz have larger roles, both of the dramatic and shenanigan quality. And Farkus is back and his scene with Ralphie was one of the best of the film.
And what about the story of A Christmas Story Christmas. It’s alright. There are a few laughs and a few tender moments, but not all the humour lands and outside of Ralphie the characters feel half baked. It is no surprise, therefore, that it does not come anywhere close to the magic of the original, nor are there any iconic moments that will remain seared in your memory. But, to its credit, it does not rehash the story of the first film, though there are numerous callbacks and references. The end result is an okay addition and thankfully not a soulless cash grab.
While I liked A Christmas Story Christmas and I enjoyed catching up with Ralphie and co. I will not be watching this every year like A Christmas Story. Rather, like those presents children play with Christmas Day and never again, this is a one and done for me. You can watch it for yourself on HBO Max.
Score: 6 out of 10
So have you seen A Christmas Story Christmas? What did you think of it? What is your favourite scene from the original? And you can check out more holly jolly content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating tabletop games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.