‘A Christmas Story Christmas’ – Review

The new HBO Max film is a fun and nostalgic holiday watch for fans of the original 1983 film.

*This review contains spoilers!*

Fans of the original holiday classic, A Christmas Story (1983), will be delighted by HBO Max’s new film, A Christmas Story Christmas. Set thirty-three years after the original, A Christmas Story Christmas follows Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), now grown up, as he scrambles to give his family the “perfect Christmas” in the wake of his father’s death.

After Ralphie, now a struggling writer living in Chicago, gets a call from his mother (Julie Hagerty, the one original character to be recast), letting him know that his father has passed away, he takes his wife, Sandy (Erinn Hayes), and children (River Drosche and Julianna Layne) to his hometown in Indiana. He promises to give his family a great Christmas, despite the family’s grief. Here, we learn that his childhood best friends, Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb), have stayed in town. Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy (Ian Petrella), is now a successful businessman who travels the world. However, Ralphie finds that everything is pretty much the same in his hometown as he left it. That is, save for the increasingly gaping hole left behind by his father, who was notorious in his love of Christmas. As Ralphie’s Christmas plans and writing career seem to simultaneously reach a tipping point, he ultimately is guided by the love and memory of his father to not only help provide a magical and memorable Christmas for his family, but also find his voice as a writer. 

It is fair to say that this film has one intended audience: fans of the original 1983 film. That said, it will service fans of the original well. As A Christmas Story has earned its ranks among Christmas classics (what other holiday film is played for 24 hours straight on Christmas?), the announcement of the new sequel certainly gave reason for pause amongst diehard fans. While there certainly wasn’t a need for this film, necessarily, it definitely delivers as a follow up to the original. There is a level of reverence to the screenplay, as well as the actors’ performances, that keeps it from veering into an obvious money-grab, a pitfall of many reboots or sequels.

The reuniting of almost the entire original cast (sans Melinda Dillon, who played Ralphie’s mother in the 1983 film) is a delight to see, and each actor at least appears to be happy to reprise their roles. Billingsley pulls off the feat of capturing Ralphie’s naive and endearing essence that carries the first film, which is impressive given that Ralphie is now a grown man with children. Erinn Hayes is also charming as Ralphie’s wife, Sandy, and while she is one of the few new characters to be introduced, her dynamic blends in seamlessly amidst all the nostalgia. However, the scene stealer is arguably Zack Ward, who returns as former bully Scut Farkus. A scene is shared between Ralphie and Scut, and Scut admits to Ralphie that the infamous “Scut Farkus Affair” helped him leave his bullying days behind. 

While the movie is packed with “fan service,” it’s done so in a fun way that is not too over the top. It does not shy away from nods to the original, in a number of different ways. Some ways are more obvious, like when Ralphie, while looking through his mother’s attic, picks over the lampshade to the iconic leg lamp and his pink bunny pajamas. Other ways are more subtle, like the transition slides between scenes, and the use of the 1983 film’s original score. 

While this film certainly does not live up to the original, it is a fun holiday watch, that perfectly balances a mix of nostalgic humor and touching motifs, as it also speaks to the difficulties that come with the first holiday season after losing a loved one. If anything, fans who grew up with the original should enjoy seeing the result of this beloved film “growing up,” too. 

Grade: B

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: None
Should be Considered: None

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Lex Williams
she/her @alexiswilli_
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
Sign: Capricorn

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