Like “A Christmas Story,” but with Nintendo.
I wasn’t really interested in seeing “8-Bit Christmas,” made for HBO Max, because I felt like it was going to be a tedious version of “A Christmas Story, because the kid in the 1980s wants a Nintendo system for Christmas the way Ralphie Parker wanted a BB gun for Christmas.
But much to my surprise, it isn’t as tedious as I thought it would be. In fact, it’s quite nostalgic and wacky, almost with the same mannerisms as “A Christmas Story.” Yes, it’s predictable at times, but it also has its humor and heart in the right place.
The story, set in Chicago, begins with an unnecessary subplot where Neil Patrick Harris as Jake Doyle constantly tells his preteen daughter (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) that she can’t have a cell phone, which is so typical in any generation. Then, it improves when they play his Nintendo system, and tells her the story about how he got it.
This is when we hit the 80s. The only kid in town to have a Nintendo is the rich jerk Timmy Keane (Chandler Dean), who is so mean-spirited, that he won’t share his gaming device with his guests, and when he offers them PopTarts, he asks his mom on the voice box for just……one. At the next gathering, however, that same jerk breaks his TV which injures his dog, and his dad (Tom Rooney) takes away the system.
Now 11-year-old Jake (Winslow Fegley from “Come Play”) has no where to go, and his parents (Steve Zahn and June Diane Raphael) won’t buy him one for Christmas, because video games makes kids dumber. However, his chances of getting one increases when the Boy Scouts sets the system as a prize for selling the most Christmas wreaths.
As expected, the mission for the Nintendo become compromised for a number of reasons, mainly about how parents depict the system as a violent and idiotic nightmare for everyone around it.
Jake has his friends to deal with that problem as well. There’s Mikey (Che Tafari), the twins Tammy (Brielle Rankins) and Teddy (Braelyn Rankins), the bee and pasta allergy stricken Evan (Santino Barnard), and the liar Jeff (Max Malas), who isn’t even Jake’s friend, but is in the circle. This is when they have to collaborate to get their own Nintendo.
“8-Bit Christmas” was directed by Michael Dowse, whose last comedy “Coffee & Kareem” was a mean, violent, and psychotic nightmare. This one, a family comedy, is much better than that. Miles better, in fact. Using themes from “The Princess Bride” and “The Goonies,” this “Christmas Story” wannabe has some likable characters, and talented actors who are able to embarrass themselves at their own expenses.
Fegley has a certain kind of movie kid likability as if Ralphie was the star of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” Harris has some good intentions as the adult version, Zahn has some attitude as the dad, and Bellaluna Resnick is charming as the little sister, who isn’t generic or mean-spirited. She just wants a Cabbage Patch doll with freckles and red hair.
Again, parts have to be predictable and the 2020s girl wants a cellphone, but “8-Bit Christmas” has a good meaning inside the story just in time for the holidays. And these days, new holiday themed movies are better found on streaming service than they are in theaters. Hopefully, this won’t come on Blu-Ray in February.
Streaming on HBO Max