Directed by: Clay Kaytis
Premise: A sequel to the 1983 film. Now an adult with a family of his own, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) returns to his childhood home to spend the holidays with his recently widowed mother (Julie Hagerty).
What Works: The past decade has seen a lot of nostalgia sequels, which are follow ups to popular films of the 1980s and 90s that deliberately service the sentimentality of Generation X and Millennial audiences. A Christmas Story Christmas participates in that trend and does it pretty well. Filmmakers of these nostalgia sequels have to honor the audience’s memory of the original picture and give them a familiar experience while moving the story and characters forward. A Christmas Story Christmas does that by returning to the midwestern suburban home of the original film and bringing back actor Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. A few of the supporting actors from the first film reappear as well. Julie Hagerty takes over the role of Ralphie’s mother from Melinda Dillon. Hagerty doesn’t look or act much like Dillon but that doesn’t matter because she is very funny. While paying homage to the original picture, the filmmakers find a fresh perspective. A Christmas Story was about experiencing the holiday as a child. The sequel is about experiencing Christmas as an adult and that gives the movie a fresh perspective and allows for some new material. The original A Christmas Story was mostly episodic with the sequences tied together by Ralphie’s Christmas wish. The plotting of the sequel is a little tighter. The ending of the sequel is actually stronger than the original in the way it is set up and paid off and gets the meaning and joy of the holiday.
What Doesn’t: Nothing about A Christmas Story Christmas it is as memorable or as charming as the original film. That was probably impossible. Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story was lightening in a bottle. But there was also a great deal of craftsmanship in the original film, especially in the way it was shot and the use of voiceover, which the sequel doesn’t even try to recapture. The story is instigated by the off-screen death of The Old Man. Ralphie and his family decide to spend the holiday with his mother to help her grieve. But for a family that has just lost its patriarch no one seems all that sad. The loss of the father is minimized except when the filmmakers need an emotional boost. Some of the returning characters are presented in a way that’s forced. A few of these guys apparently haven’t grown since they were in elementary school. These throwback moments opt for nostalgia instead of seizing an opportunity to do something more creative.
Disc extras: Available on HBO Max.
Bottom Line: A Christmas Story Christmas is an acceptable companion piece to its predecessor. It’s not going to become perennial viewing and it is unlikely that anyone will remember this sequel in a few years. But the filmmakers have succeeded in creating a likable holiday movie that will tickle viewer’s memory of the original A Christmas Story.
Episode: #932 (December 25, 2022)