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‘A Christmas Story Christmas’: Nostalgia done right

“A Christmas Story Christmas” had a particularly high bar this year.

This is a follow-up to a film that many Gen Xers and Millennials regard as one of, if not THE holiday classic.

For years, TNT has broadcast “A Christmas Story” marathons. You’ll shoot your eye out or “Fraj-ee-lay” are just a couple of the quotes that almost everyone I know can cite from the movie. The film is an outrageous holiday classic that has endured. So how exactly do you start writing a proper sequel to it?

With “My Summer Story” in 1994 and “A Christmas Story 2” in 2012, Hollywood had previously tried. Neither achieved the same level of fame or popularity as the original. However, HBO Max has finally made a play, and I’m pleased to report that they did surprisingly well.

One of those Christmas movies with virtually a nuclear bomb’s worth of nostalgia is “A Christmas Story.” It seemed impossible to move the plot along without igniting any of that nostalgia.

I kind of dreaded watching “A Christmas Story Christmas” when I first saw the trailer. I anticipated that the movie would be a lazy remake with a lot of the same dialogue. Hollywood consistently produces reboots and sequels where the characters simply serve as a nostalgic reminder of the original and ask, “Remember this?”

Thankfully, this sequel avoided that minefield and made a wise decision. “A Christmas Story Christmas” targeted the main character with its nostalgia rather than the viewers. Through the narrator’s memories of the notorious lamp and the BB pistol, we were able to view those elements from the first film as they became sentimental for him.

BRINGED BILLINGSLEY back

Another thing that “A Christmas Story Christmas” did well was. It reinstated Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, the story’s narrator and protagonist. And he dominates so much of this movie, including the funny and the sad portions. The highlight of the film is him.

The plot follows Ralphie as an adult in the 1980s. He is now married to Sandy (Erinn Hayes), and they have two children. They live in Chicago. Ralphie is anticipating his parents’ return to the city to spend Christmas with his family, as they did in previous years.

And it appears that Ralphie’s ambition to become a published author is running out of time. He has a 2,000 page science fiction book that is godawful. The aspiring writer gave himself a year to attempt writing full-time; if he didn’t land a book deal, he would return to his day job. The year is almost done, and virtually every publisher has rejected his work.

At that point, his mother, Mrs. Parker, calls and delivers even worse news (Julie Hagerty). She says Ralphie’s father passed away. And while Billingsley was able to return for the role of Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” Darren McGavin, who played his father, passed away in 2006.

Thankfully, Hagerty does a good job portraying Mrs. Parker. Even if it would have been wonderful to have Dillon back. But you know who actually does? Scott Schwartz played Flick, the young child from the original who had his tongue hooked to the flagpole. Then there is R.D. Robb, who reprises his role as Schwartz, the youngster who triple-dog dared Flick to first stick his tongue to the flagpole. Upon Ralphie’s return to Hammond, Indiana, both are welcome arrivals who immediately take on the roles of his childhood buddies.

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IMG CREDIT:-UPI

In a touching scene when Ralphie visits his childhood home, lines from the Old Man from the first movie play while he enjoys looking at pictures of his father.

This is the nostalgia that Ralphie experiences, and it paints a beautiful picture of a guy who has just experienced loss.

Shortly after, Ralphie is presented with the primary challenge of the film by his mother, who requests that he organize the ideal Christmas for his family. Of course, he agrees, and it is only then that he understands how challenging it is to pull together the ideal Christmas. Instantaneously, he realizes how simple his father made life for him as a child.

This is the nostalgia that Ralphie experiences, and it paints a beautiful picture of a guy who has just experienced loss.

Shortly after, Ralphie is presented with the primary challenge of the film by his mother, who requests that he organize the ideal Christmas for his family. Of course, he agrees, and it is only then that he understands how challenging it is to pull together the ideal Christmas. Instantaneously, he realizes how simple his father made life for him as a child.

With Crazy Pit Stop

And it is at this point that “A Christmas Story Christmas” demonstrates to the viewer how well screenwriters Nick Schenk and Clay Kaytis grasped the task at hand. The original movie’s strength is that it follows all these absurd pit stops with a very loosely connected narrative thread. The movie jumps from one amusing scene to the next swiftly, interspersed with a couple of Ralphie’s daydreams.

This same strategy is employed by “A Christmas Story Christmas” to satisfy the audience’s desires, although from a different angle. Ralphie is now an elderly man (and dealing with the loss of his own father). There are plenty of funny moments, from patrons at the pub being silent whenever a wife’s husband’s phone rings to Ralphie accidentally shooting his kid in the eye with a snowball during a snowball fight.

The number of times this movie made me laugh astonished me, but there are just so many funny jokes and silly scenes to enjoy.

Then, just when you start to believe it’s all in good fun, Ralphie and his mother have a chance to think about the Old Man’s passing. It contains the ideal quantity of sentimentality for a Christmas film.

The only serious issue I have with “A Christmas Story Christmas” is the conclusion, where the screenwriters show they don’t know how newspapers operate. or even the syndication of columns. But in comparison to the negative review I had anticipated writing after watching the teaser, this is a minor quibble.

A follow-up to a well-liked Christmas movie that was 39 years old was just what people would want, according to Kaytis (who also directed). He successfully landed, mostly as a result of Billingsley’s hard lifting and his avoidance of frequent hazards.

HBO Max currently has “A Christmas Story Christmas” available.