A Christmas Story Christmas Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Ralphie is back! Though this time it is up to him, to present the family with an unforgettable Christmas season. Will he be able to handle the pressure?
Genre: Christmas / Comedy
Director: Clay Kaytis
Cast: Peter Billingsley, Erinn Hayes, Julie Hagerty, River Drosche, Julianna Layne, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Ian Petrella & Zack Ward.
Run Time: 98 min.
US Release: 17 November 2022 (HBO Max)
UK Release: N/A
German Release: 8 December 2022
We are right in the middle of the holiday season, being blessed with one Christmas release after another. While many of them just try to cash in on the jolly spirit, without anything in return, a few capture the season's delight. Clay Kaytis’ follow-up to Bob Clark’s classic, was not specifically a movie I was looking forward to but after seeing the trailer, I was intrigued. I am happy to say that this is a solid sequel! So, get your cocoa and candy canes ready, as we dive into my review for A Christmas Story Christmas.
An adult Ralphie returns to his childhood home on Cleveland Street, to give his children a magical Christmas like the one his old man had given him as a child. In the process he reunites with old friends, coming to terms with his father’s passing.
A Christmas Story has been a traditional holiday flick, since its release in 1983. I sadly saw it for the first time, at the age of 24. It is based on humorist John Shepherd’s collection of semi-fictional anecdotes, in the novel “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash”. Two sequels followed; number one was My Summer Story (or as it was released in theatres: It Runs in the Family), which is also based on Shepherd’s novel. A Christmas Story 2 is an original sequel, released in 2012, ignoring the events of My Summer Story. None of them featured anyone from the ‘83 cast or managed to capture the charm of that first adaptation.
Now, nearly forty years after Clark’s film, we obtain a proper follow-up, that sees most of the cast come together, reprising their roles.
This sequel was developed by Peter Billingsley, the actor who plays Ralphie, together with screenwriter Nick Schenk, who finalised the script. From the opening scene, as the camera pans through Ralphie’s Chicago apartment, introducing us to his family, the charm of the original immediately resurfaces! This is a follow-up story written by people who cared, pouring their hearts into it. I also liked the shift in perspective that the plot took; from Ralphie as a child obtaining the best presents ever, to the protagonist now as an adult, wanting to give his family the best Christmas. It also is surprisingly funny!
It is not a perfect continuation though, as it relies heavily on nostalgia; the attic is full of items from the ‘83 flick, and it makes heavy use of flashback scenes from the first picture. Then there is the fact that, while it captures the charm as well as the heart of Clark’s premise, it misses that magical feeling. It simply does not have the same quality.
As in the original, the plot is narrated by an older version of Ralphie. This time, however, it is not done by Jean Shepherd, who died in 1999, but Billingsly himself. Unusual at first, Billingsly did such a great job working himself into the voice-overs that it became natural.
Peter Billingsley returns to his iconic role as Ralphie Parker, after nearly forty years of absence, immediately recalling the character's mannerisms, as well as his facial expressions. It feels as if the audience watched this boy grow up into the man he is in the story. Ralphie himself still daydreams a lot, which adds to the humour.
Julie Hagerty replaces Melinda Dillon, who retired from acting in 2007, as Mrs. Parker, Ralph’s mother. Hagerty does a wonderful job, of bringing a lot of motherly warmth to the character. Fortunately, Mrs. Parker gets fleshed out a little bit more than in the predecessors, though not by much. Hagerty’s chemistry with the rest of the cast was impeccable, especially with Hayes!
Erinn Hayes was cast as Sandy Parker, Ralph’s wife and mother of their two kids. Sandy is portrayed as a supporting wife, even if her husband’s ideas go out of control, yet she also jumps in to help out when everything else fails. Sandy seems to be the odd one out of the group, as she likes or does things the rest of the family dislikes. All in all, it was a simple character to play for Hayes.
River Drosche and Julianna Layne play the Parkers' children Mark and Julie respectively. Both gave good renditions of their characters, being the focus of the lead's mission, as he tries to give them a nice Noel time.
The camera work is good, with a lot of shots, pans and angles trying to pay tribute to Reginald H. Morris's cinematography. A lot of the stylistic choices were taken straight from the ‘83 holiday film. The colour-grading has a golden-orange hue, which suits the eighties setting well. Effects are limited, though there is one green-screen scene used in a stunt that does stick out.
The shooting location was moved from Cleveland to Bulgaria and Hungary, where Ralphie's childhood house, as seen in the predecessor, was completely rebuilt. Costume design plus makeup reflect the era in which the narrative plays.
Verdict: Clay Kaytis’ direct sequel to Bob Clark’s classic holiday movie, is a solid follow-up that captures the soul of the original. It feels as if catching up with an old friend one hasn’t seen in years. While the plot, the dialogues, the narration, and the characters are developed well enough to stand on their own, the writers and director made the grave error to rely too much on nostalgia. Billingsley is once again great as the lead persona Ralph Parker, as is the rest of the returning cast. Erinn Hayes has been given a very one-dimensional role, though she does her best with it. The cinematography successfully captures the flair of the eighties, as does the costume design. The music by Jeff Morrow builds on the first flick’s score. All in all, this is a fun little sequel that put me in a festive mood. A Christmas Story Christmas obtains a 7.0 out of 10.
Did you manage to watch this next instalment of the Parker family? Leave a comment to let me know what you thought. Thank you for reading!