Imagine having had the perfect Christmas when you were a child. Imagine having made the perfect Christmas movie when you were a child. Imagine, as an adult, you want to give your children the perfect Christmas. Imagine, as an adult, you wish to leave for the next generation the perfect Christmas movie. Thus begins the story of the new holiday movie A Christmas Story Christmas.
Ralphie Parker, whom we met as a young boy in A Christmas Story, is now an adult with a wife and two children. It is coming up on Christmas, and times are tough for the Parker household. Ralphie has embarked on what he hopes will be a promising writing career. This means that financially the family isn’t as well off as normal. Nevertheless, he plans to take his family back to visit his parents and give them the best Christmas possible. That is when things start to go wrong, starting with rejections for his novel and ending with a phone call from his mother delivering the tragic news that his father suddenly passed away.
A Christmas Story was developed from a series of short stories written by Jean Shepard and fairly quickly became a fixture in the catalog of holiday movies. We were given memorable characters, outrageous storylines, and some incredible performances, most notably from the late Darren McGavin as Ralphie’s father, The Old Man. With all those elements put together, it was no wonder A Christmas Story would develop this cult following and popularity. Now, in an amusing case of art imitating life, the man who brought us young Ralphie (actor turned producer turned actor again, Peter Billingsley), along with writers Nick Schenk and Clay Kaytis, have delivered what some people thought might be a failure with A Christmas Story Christmas. However the concept of this story came about, the idea of Ralphie trying to live up to that magical Christmas he lived so many years ago has a fascinating parallel in the making of this sequel by trying to make a new holiday movie that lives up to that first magical movie, and the best way to do that was to bring back as many of the original actors as possible and to see what their character’s lives have become as adults. How Billingsley was able to recreate Ralphie, but as an adult, is a marvel. Still, there he is. Many of the personality traits we saw in young Ralphie are there, but Billingsley found just the right way to add a certain weariness to the character through his repeated failures at becoming a writer. He also found ways to follow the character the late McGavin played without resorting to completely imitating him. Sadly, the one returning character of Ralphie’s mother was not performed by Melinda Dillon, as she retired from acting in 2007. Instead, the role was given to Julie Hagerty (from Airplane fame). By doing this, it appears that Mrs. Parker’s character was altered slightly to play to Hagerty’s strength as a comedic actress. Dillon’s Mrs. Parker had some silly moments, but she was a person who knew what she was doing at all times. Hagerty’s Mrs. Parker is a tad bit eccentric, giving her some interesting contrast to both Billingsley and Erinn Hayes (Ralphie’s wife, Sandy).
Rounding out the friendly trio of kids are Scott Schwartz as Flick (who stuck his tongue to the flagpole in the first movie) and R. D. Robb as Schwartz (the kid who double-dog-dared Flick to do it in the first place). They’re back, and their storylines speak of those who never managed to leave the small town where they grew up. Flick’s life isn’t so bad as an owner of a bar and restaurant. Schwartz is also a regular there who has acquired quite the bar tab. Scott Schwartz kept busy in Hollywood with many acting jobs in various indie projects. R. D. Robb also continued his work both in front of and behind the camera. Both of them slipped right back into their roles like a pair of comfortable shoes. One of the most enjoyable returning characters was Zack Ward, who played the neighborhood bully Scut Farkus. He has a pleasantly surprising role here that was somewhat predictable but still added a nice heartwarming touch to the movie.
Lastly, there were newcomers River Drosche (Ralphie’s son Mark), Julianna Layne (Ralphie’s daughter Julie), and the aforementioned Errin Hayes. Sadly, the role of Sandy Parker (Ralphie’s wife) doesn’t add much to the story except to provide support to Ralphie. Hayes does play her well, and she does get a few fun moments with Hagerty. However, the child actors Drosche and Layne bring some delightful humor to this movie, including one hilarious scene between Layne and Billingsley that hearkens back to a constantly repeated line from A Christmas Story; the dreaded “You’ll shoot your eye out!” This has to be seen to be believed!
Also, because Darren McGavin is no longer with us doesn’t mean that his presence isn’t felt. Through the use of voiceovers from the late actor, The Old Man ends up being felt throughout the movie. His passing is always there and serves as a subtext to the story that provides a magical way of tying up all of the storylines into one big beautiful Christmas present bow.
Making a sequel to a Christmas classic like A Christmas Story, with all of its jokes that have engrained itself into today’s popular culture, is like trying to catch lighting in a bottle. And yet, Billingsley, Kaytis, and all the other people involved managed to do just that. If you are a fan of A Christmas Story, you’ll certainly enjoy A Christmas Story Christmas. It lives up to the original with its spirit. It transcends itself by making it a movie worthy of repeated holiday viewings. A Christmas Story Christmas is, for me, already a classic.
I give A Christmas Story Christmas 5 out of 5 Christmas Tree Stars.
A Christmas Story Christmas
Follows the now-adult Ralphie as he returns to the house on Cleveland Street to give his kids a magical Christmas like the one he had as a child, reconnecting with childhood friends, and reconciling the passing of his Old Man.
A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS is available for streaming on HBO Max.
ONE-LINER: Ralphie comes home.