A sequel that knows it’s the thought that counts.
“Mama’s Little Piggy,” “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” “I Triple Dog Dare You,” “BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE,” and “Fra-gee-lee.” Some of the quotes that made the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story” so iconic and memorable for years to come. And now, we have the sequel “A Christmas Story Christmas,” which reunites some of the original stars: Peter Billinglsey as Ralphie Parker, the kid who wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, Ian Petrella as his kid brother Randy, Scott Schwartz and R.D. Robb as his friends Flick and Schwartz, and Zach Ward as the bully Scut Farkus.
Does it compare to the original? No, it doesn’t, because of how predictable it can be at times. But is it at least heartwarming and entertaining for the kid in all of us? Yes, it is. I’m not made of stone. Besides as a Christmas sequel, its miles and miles and miles and miles ahead of “Home Sweet Home Alone,” which treated the original “Home Alone” like it was boring. “A Christmas Story Christmas” is a little nostalgia trip.
The time is now in the 1970s, and Ralphie is an ambitious writer, who lives in Chicago with his wife Sandy (Erinn Hayes) and their two kids Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne). He’s so eager to get his stories published, but to no avail. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
He returns to his hometown of Hammond, Indiana, because his Old Man passed away, and his mother Mrs. Parker (now played by Julie Hagerty) needs some cheering up. She’s happy to have her family home for the Holidays, and Ralphie agrees to try to live up to his Old Man’s standards, by making it the Best Christmas Ever. What was he thinking?!
Times have changed, and lessons are learned, most of them. Randy is doing quite well in India, and Ralphie guilt trips him into coming back home for Christmas. Flick runs the local bar, and Triple Dog Dares Schwartz into sledding down a big ramp in exchange for a clear tab. And Frakus is now the local cop, who gives Ralphie a little ride. A terrifying and awkward fear for him, no less.
As side-dishes to the story, his kids have to deal with the neighborhood bullies, his mother wants them to finish the casseroles the neighbors left, and Ralphie must also figure out his Old Man’s obituary. And wait until you see how Mrs. Parker reacts to the carolers.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” was directed by Clay Kaytis, who also made “The Angry Birds Movie” and “The Christmas Chronicles.” Here, he does his best to live up to the late Bob Clark’s standards, by entertaining the little tykes and “the grown-up kids they live with.” A little something I picked up from Roger Ebert. It’s awkward, it’s predictable, and it’s comical, especially since these kids are now adults, but it’s nice to see a little reunion with some of the remaining cast members, and how they bring back their styles, while maturing.
In the original film, Billingsley knew how to be cute, how to smile, and how to have big dreams. And now that he’s an adult, he knows how to have his dreams, and how when life throws lemons at him. He’ll make lemonade soon enough. He got his BB gun as a kid, he’ll get his would-be writing career on track soon enough. After all, it would be a Christmas miracle. Formulaic it sounds, but sweet-hearted it is.
Streaming on HBO Max
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