Where I Watched It: HBo MAX
English Audio Description?: Yes
Narrated By: Laura Post
There’s almost an abundance of nostalgia right now. Legacy sequels abound, remakes, reboots, and various things from your childhood coming back. So, with so much nostalgia, it’s making it harder and harder for nostalgia to be enough. We’re starting, really truly just starting, to realize that nostalgia sometimes just isn’t enough. Whether you agree with me on this specific project, there’s probably been something given a legacy sequel, or a remake, reboot, requel, or otherwise revived back to life recently that you were not a fan of. Even though, you are a fan of the original work, or source material.
For A Christmas Story Christmas, it is very much like that. It’s not as aggressively awful like Home Sweet Home Alone, which failed on all accounts to do anything correctly, but it is pretty close. The first one was about a working class family, and our young Ralphie who had a Christmas wish he just had to make come true. Even though all he ever heard was, you’ll put your eye out. It was relatable, it was memorable, and it has become a classic due to those 24 hour marathons that run every single year. It captured so much of what Christmas was like as a kid, even though likely you watched it and it wasn’t your generation. Even if you were of the right age to have seen this upon its initial theatrical run, and not later on cable like other generations, it still wasn’t reflective of the kinds of things that you and your friends were experiencing, yet it felt so much like home. To your parents, it felt a lot more like the Christmas they remember, with references to things they grew up with, but that perfectly captured childlike wonder at Christmastime transcended decades.
This film doesn’t do that. This film, sadly has no idea what made the first film work, and does very little to do anything except nostalgia bomb you into submission. This rather dreary return to Ralphie and his family finds him in almost utter poverty. in an early scene, he’s trying to get his kids to eat breakfast cereal with orange juice instead of milk. Because they don’t have milk. Because his writing keeps getting rejected by every major publisher. Ralphie, that little kid with a bright future, just grew up to be a struggling artist, one with a wife and two kids.
Yes, the motif is now that Ralphie is “the old man”, and our 2022 lens decided to give him a daughter instead of two sons, so he’s got siblings of different genders to make this an interesting film. Except, sadly, this film isn’t about the kids. The first film that captured the magic so perfectly about what a kids Christmas was like, from wearing bizarre pajamas, to snow days,and the daunting task of sitting on Santa’s lap… all of that was gone. It’s been replaced by a far bleaker storyline revolving around how that cute little kid grew up to be a failed author, and how this Christmas, his father has passed away.
Yes, this film addresses the real life passing of Darren mcGavin by killing off his old man at Christmastime, which could set up for some emotional moments, if Peter Billingsley was ready for them. He has the dramatic depth of a sheet of paper, often missing not just what makes a scene funny, but also what makes it sad. He feels like an actor they would have chosen for a straight-to-video sequel where the original cast wasn’t coming back, and they just needed warm bodies. Except, he’s basically the whole reason you’re watching this film. He, and the original kids from the film, are the link that make this film a sequel. Julie Hagerty wasn’t in the first film. I don’t know what happened to her counterpart. IMDB doesn’t have a death date, but she hasn’t acted in over ten years, and obviously this script wasn’t going to make her come back. Hagerty,for what it’s worth, fully is committed to this role. 100%. There’s a scene with carolers and this septuagenarian dives for cover like she’s still the spry young actress from Airplane.
I also support Erin Hayes in literally anything. Her presence, and continued success must be pissing people off, and I love it. For those who do not know what I’m talking about, Hayes was the co-lead opposite Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait, until CBS decided kevin James didn’t need a wife anymore, and they killed her character off. Only later to try and bring in a King Of Queens reunion. The show still got axed after three seasons. But, the Hayes controversy inspired an entire show, Kevin Can Fuck Himself, on which Hayes has appeared. Everytime you support, Kevin James dies a little inside.
Aside from our two ladies, I’d love to be able to talk about the kids, who this film should be about. This film should be narrated by one of the kids. hell, I’ll go so far as to say the daughter, to fully change things up. If this story was from her perspective, it could still maintain a lot of the depressing elements, but it would also swing in some moments just from her perspective with her brother. What is it like to travel to a different town for Christmas and play with the kids in the neighborhood you’re not from? What has changed in the decades since Ralphie was a child? This always worked because we saw this life from the perspective of a child. The parents didn’t have names. They were nameless, because a lot of kids Ralphie’s age just know their parents by mom and Dad, or in this case… the old man.
Instead of passing the buck, we get stuck in a sequel that wants to continue Ralphie’s story, which is a lot less interesting than the original. It also means that now, Billingsley narrates, instead of our perfect narration from the first film, which gave us the element of a nostalgic look back from an adult perspective. Now, this movie could have gone the route of still having a different narrator, by having an older narrator than Billingsley, taking a look back yet again. But, like I said, this film was made by people who have no idea why anyone likes the first film, or why it worked so well.
This hopes that you just getting to see Billingsley return as Ralphie is enough. Because, the other legacy characters, his childhood friends and brother Randy, are not the focus. They just appear randomly throughout, but this is Ralphie’s story. He’s returning home to the house on Cleveland Street to a mom that wasn’t his, with a wife and kids that are new to the franchise, to bury his father at Christmas. And while he talks about wanting to make this special for his kids, it’s never from their perspective, but always from Ralphie’s.
It’s a film I think people maybe thought they wanted, but when you see it in execution, you realize this film has lost the magic and luster of longing for a B.B. Gun.
The audio description from Laura Post is what it is. Laura always does good work, and I know the writer must have had a bitch of a time trying to get as much appropriate narration in here as possible, but the script is dialogue heavy, and it has a persistent narrator that won’t shut p already. With Ralphie either talking in character, or narrating his own story, at least the audio description from Post stands out, because her voice is very much not Billingsley’s voice.
Did I like this film? Look, to be honest, the stage musical that has people divisive on it as well does a much better job of understanding why the original was so special than this one does. This is just a tiny bit better than Home Sweet Home Alone, but both are sequels we could have done without. Hollywood, if you aren’t sure why people liked the first film, then don’t revive it. Just let it be it’s own thing.
Episode Grade: D+