The now-popular 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story contributed to the rise of Midwestern pre-teen boys becoming Christmas movie icons as Peter Billingsley's Ralphie Parker had become an incredibly recognizable seasonal protagonist. Flashing nearly 40 years forward, Billingsley's unexpected sequel A Christmas Story Christmas keeps his holiday prominence at bay through sofer, family-friendly fare. Now a father, he's determined to embrace the importance of the Christmas season while reliving his own childhood winter memories.
A Christmas Story Christmas carries on the same tone and cadence of its senior as it looks to mirror similar tropes first introduced by A Christmas Story. The sequel illustrates the frustration of adulthood - highlighting Parker's writing career as he shops his novel to uninterested publishers - and communicates how difficult it is to succeed in literary fields. The film once again revisits the Midwest, capturing the culture and traditions of its holiday celebrations. A Christmas Story Christmas plays out as more of a reunion for not only Billingsley and the franchise, but for returning cast to tap back into their snowy Indiana counterparts. A collection of homages to most key marks draw connections to the original as past cues are taken, such as Parker's imaginative, theatrical self-insert daydreams or animated voice-over narration, which are creative though predictable. A Christmas Story Christmas hits familiar set locations and allows Parker to reflect on his youth from an aged point of view. With this, parallels in abundance meet.
The sequel becomes too comfortable with resting its weight on what has been previously achieved by A Christmas Story as A Christmas Story Christmas cycles through the same jokes, gags, and gimmicks. Some punchlines are stronger than others, while other passes at a good laugh are lazy or worthy of an eye roll. One gag is inconsistent, where an actress is seen without a piece of her costume from scene to scene that is necessary for context. The forgetfulness of the joke by the director themself takes away from one of the film's most unexpected moments. The direction and some of the script are misaligned with the story. There's plenty that the story wants to achieve but is held back by mediocre direction. It's even more surprising that A Christmas Story Christmas doesn't cash in on its most famous props featured so prominently in the first. A Christmas Story Christmas is both a sequel and a replica, reconstructing the warmth and comfort found in the first, but leaving more to be desired. It's a comfortable continuation that brings closure to a familiar cast of characters while achieving its feel-good endeavor.
A Christmas Story Christmas sheds the snark from the original and curls up to a genuine sense of sincerity. The depiction of grief and loss following The Old Man's passing (though Darren McGavin passed in 2006) shines a light on the reality of returning to hometowns. There's an effort to keep the personal affinity for Christmas alive with joy and dignity as traditions are determined to be upheld. The sequel is a breezy, light, and entertaining take on a specific time of year - from a certain year - as nostalgia settles into the sequel. Beneath the frivolousness of it all, there is sentiment to behold. Holiday classic magic is difficult to replicate, as harolds the film itself, yet there's goodwill (and a bump in viewership for HBO Max) at heart. A Christmas Stoy Christmas isn't naughty or nice - instead, it's a toasty, mild, and middling look back at a classic title being passed from one generation to the next. 5/10.