A Christmas Story Christmas
"A Christmas Story Christmas" is a surprisingly sturdy sequel to a holiday season staple.
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I’ve always liked Bob Clark’s “A Christmas Story.” It’s not my go-to Christmas movie per se (Truthfully, I’m more of a “Die Hard,” “The Ref,” “Bad Santa,” “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” and “The Night Before” sorta cat.), but I’ll often watch it in bits in pieces when it airs for 24 hours straight on TBS. I was skeptical when I started seeing commercials for “A Christmas Story Christmas” (now streaming on HBO Max), but I must admit it was a nostalgic, pleasing and pleasant surprise.
It’s 1973. Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) has grown up to marry Sandy (Erinn Hayes). They live on the South Side of Chicago with their children Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne). Sandy’s allowed Ralphie to take the year off of work to write and hopefully sell his epic sci-fi novel to a publisher. With Christmas right around the corner, Ralphie’s on the clock.
The book becomes less of a priority on a fateful day when Ralphie receives a phone call from his mother (“Airplane” actress Julie Haggerty, subbing in for Melinda Dillon) informing him of his father’s passing. Ralphie and Sandy promptly pack up the car and the kids and head to Hohman, Ind. (a fictionalized version of Hammond, Ind.) in order to spend the holidays with Mother Parker.
Upon arriving in Hohman, Ralphie hangs with his old pals Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb). Flick owns and operates a local watering hole he inherited from his Pop. Schwartz lives with his mother and frequents Flick’s place racking up an insurmountable bar tab. Ralphie’s younger brother Randy (Ian Petrella) and childhood bullies Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) and Grover Dill (Yano Anaya) also turn up in supporting roles.
With Old Man Parker (the late great Darren McGavin, present through pictures, clips and voiceover) gone, it’s up to Ralphie to ensure his family has a Christmas to remember.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” is directed by Clay Kaytis (Netflix’s “The Christmas Chronicles”) and written by Kaytis and frequent Clint Eastwood collaborator Nick Schenk from a story by Schenk and Billingsley. (Billingsley also produces alongside his buddy Vince Vaughn).
The picture is a vast improvement over Kaytis’ “The Christmas Chronicles” (a movie I admittedly enjoyed well enough). It doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but it ain’t far off. It’s generally well-acted (I especially enjoyed Billingsley’s soothing narration – a nice tip of the hat to Jean Shepherd, whose novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” inspired “A Christmas Story” and who narrated the original.) and it’s a kick to see these kids a lot of us grew up with all grown up.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” will no doubt please fans of the original and serves as a lovely tribute to both Clark and McGavin. I laughed. I cried. I was thoroughly charmed despite the project’s inherent cheesiness. You could certainly do worse this holiday season … it won’t make you wanna shoot your eye out.