A Christmas Story Christmas  Movie Review: Ralphie returns in a forgettable but sweet sequel

A Christmas Story Christmas  MovieReview: Ralphie returns in a forgettable but sweet sequel

Peter Billingsley reprises his iconic role in this sequel to the timeless Christmas classic.

It’s hard to imagine now, but A Christmas Story wasn’t exactly a hit when it hit theaters in 1983. It’s mostly because of the film’s constant rotation on cable television during the holiday season that it has achieved its current beloved status. Christmas classic. . So it makes a lot of sense in the current era of streaming for its belated and awkwardly titled sequel A Christmas Story Christmas to debut on HBO Max. (Yes, there was 1994’s My Summer Story and the direct-to-video sequel to the 2012 A Christmas Story 2. But this movie ignores them, and you should too.) 

 Set in 1973, more than thirty years after the original, the film stars once again the now middle-aged Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, who has grown up and lives in Chicago with his wife Sandy (Erinn Hayes ) and young children Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne). Ralphie, a struggling writer who can’t get his sci-fi magnum opus published, is looking forward to his parents’ Christmas visit. A Christmas Story Christmas 

 But he receives sad news from his mother (Julie Hagerty, charming understudy for the now-retired Melinda Dillon from the original film), who informs him that her beloved “Old Man” (originally played by the late Darren McGavin, who has been given a loving tribute here) has suddenly passed away.

Ralphie then immediately heads with his family to his childhood home in Indiana, where his mother sets him the daunting task of making sure the family has a merry Christmas despite the loss of him and writing his father’s obituary for him. . (Although the original house was in Cleveland, this replica was built in Bulgaria, where the movie was filmed.) 

It doesn’t take long for Ralphie to be reunited with friends and family, played by the original artists (seeing them is as disconcerting as meeting his classmates at his 30th high school reunion).

They include his friends Schwartz (RD Robb) and Flick (Scott Schwartz), the latter now owning the local tavern, and his old nemesis Scut Farcus (Zack Ward), whose current profession is not what you would have imagined. . Ralphie also tries to persuade his brother Randy (Ian Patrella), now a globetrotting businessman, to come home for the holidays. 

Unsurprisingly, the sequel features a plethora of throwbacks and flashbacks to the original, including movie snippets to jog your memory in the unlikely event you haven’t recently rewatched a few snippets while cruising the channel on Christmas Eve. (In fact, the film features so many Easter eggs that it probably should be titled An Easter Story Easter, even though it doesn’t quite quite have the same tone.)

One of the characters is once again the victim of a “triple dog challenge”; Ralphie engages in a rich fantasy life, including an homage to old westerns with the character Black Bart; offenders still rage in the neighborhood; the kids visit Santa at Higbee’s Department Store; and physical injuries abound, requiring not one but two trips to the emergency room.

Despite the lack of originality, only a Grinch would bother with the freebies, which have the comforting feel of family Christmas traditions. Billingsley, still displaying a youthful enthusiasm, has aged and taken on the role of narrator of the story, even if his commentary lacks the gentleness and thoughtfulness that has been brought by Jean Shepherd, the author of the book on which the films are based. . 

As with the original, the sequel isn’t a refreshingly idealized Christmas, but filled with the messy mishaps that inevitably accompany the holidays. But it also paints a heartwarming portrait of family and friends lovingly supporting each other. Though nothing in director Clay Kaytis and Nick Schenk’s script (Billingsley, who also produced, has an “onscreen story” credit) quite matches the hilarity of the first film’s iconic “Leg Lamp” or incident of licking the post. frozen flag, there’s enough laughter to fuel the proceedings, including a funny gag involving the male patrons of Flick’s bar getting flustered whenever the phone rings.

A Christmas story Christmas is unlikely to replace its predecessor as a perennial holiday. Still, it’s nice to know that the Parker family still knows how to have a good Christmas season after all these years.

THE BOTTOM LINE

As comforting as egg nog on Christmas Eve

Release date: Thursday, Nov. 17 (HBO Max)

Cast: Peter Billingsley, Erinn Hayes, River Drosche, Julianna Layne, Julie Hagerty, Scott Schwartz, RD Robb, Ian Porter, Sam Parks, Davis Murphy, Zack Ward, Ian Petrella, Ian Petrella

Director: Clay Kaytis

Screenwriters: Nick Schenk, Clay Kaytis

Rated PG, 1 hour 38 minute

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