For the most part, sequels are completely unnecessary, and they always have been. In recent years, however, “legacy sequels” have become a popular mainstay in movies. Think the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy, “Jurassic World,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Halloween” (2018), etc. The latest piece of cinema to get this treatment is the iconic 1983 holiday film “A Christmas Story.”
For reference, the original “A Christmas Story” is a stone-cold holiday classic. The leg lamp? The BB gun? Iconic imagery. And it actually has a sequel, “A Christmas Story 2” (2012), which is one of the worst things I have ever seen in my entire life. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly heard that another sequel – one that ignores that 2012 dumpster fire – was not only in the pipeline, but was being released soon. Less than a month passed, and “A Christmas Story Christmas” was dropped.
I’m sorry, but can we talk about that title? “A Christmas Story Christmas?” Why say Christmas twice? Is there going to be “A Christmas Story Halloween?” I don’t get it.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” concerns Ralphie Parker, the child from the original movie all grown up, who tries to give his family a perfect Christmas while also dealing with the aftermath of his father’s death.
The first part of the movie did have my family and me a tad worried. After all, it is tough to get used to the adult version of a kid you have been watching for decades. Nevertheless, Peter Billingsley, the original Ralphie, does a surprisingly good job carrying the film, and both the jokes and the emotion get ramped up tenfold in the second half.
In fact, pretty much all of the kids from the original come back in some shape or form, all played by their original actors. The adults from the original, however, are mostly played by new actors. For example, the role of Ralphie’s mother is now played by Julie Hagerty, replacing Melinda Dillon. Hagerty does a really great job capturing the essence of the character and what made Dillon’s performance so iconic. Billingsley and Zack Ward, who plays Officer Scut Farkus, effortlessly slip back into their roles as if decades have not passed. The other grown-up child actors did not impress quite as much, but they also have less to work with here in comparison.
Something that defines the original film is its voiceover narration from writer Jean Shepherd. Shepherd, who provided narration as the voice of the adult Ralphie in the original, passed away years ago, so Billingsley takes up the position this time. He is able to conjure up the tonality of Shepherd very well, and he delivers his lines similarly.
Another big piece of the movie is the fan service. The movie is absolutely full of it. And yeah, normally fan service is extremely pandering, but here, it’s done in a more clever way than usual. A lot of the movie mirrors the original in clever ways. It comes pretty close to downright copying its predecessor, but ultimately, it does all feel very heartfelt. There were moments when I felt genuinely touched. There was a scene toward the end that honestly made my eyes a bit misty.
From a filmmaking perspective, they don’t do anything too special with lighting or cinematography, but this isn’t supposed to be some highbrow art film. It’s a fun, lighthearted holiday comedy. It doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
I fully admit I am extremely biased when it comes to this movie. The original film is a favorite of mine, and I’m sure I’m being blinded by nostalgia at least a little bit. Despite that, “A Christmas Story Christmas” stands as a solid sequel to a beloved classic that works way better than expected.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” is streaming now on HBO Max.