December 16, 2022 | CULTURE | By Frances Thyer | Illustration by Rowan Kempen
Not being a particularly avid fan of Christmas movies or remakes of treasured films, watching “A Christmas Story Christmas” wasn’t at the top of my list of things I wanted to do. With hope that there may someday soon be a good, modern Christmas movie, and given the opportunity to rewatch the original “A Christmas Story”, I decided that it was about time to give the holiday genre another chance. Once again, however, I am left disappointed.
What is ultimately the best aspect of unfortunate sequels is their ability to make an audience truly appreciate the original. Told from the perspective of elementary schooler Ralphie Parker, the best of “A Christmas Story” lies in its endearing vignettes of childhood experience. From leg-shaped lamp to outgrown snowsuits, the details feel innocently hilarious, especially accompanied by the serious yet sweet narration by an older Ralphie.
This honest childhood joy, unfortunately, is lost in “A Christmas Story Christmas”. The cast includes many of the same actors from the original film, notably with Peter Billingsley once again playing Ralphie almost forty years after the release of “A Christmas Story”. The story follows adult Ralphie attempting to orchestrate a Christmas for his children as perfect as he experienced in his youth, an ironic plot given that the film itself feels like it is attempting to recreate the best aspects of the original film.
However, the voiced internal monologue now feels performative and annoying, with the dream sequence vignettes seeming strangely inauthentic from the perspective of a full-grown man. The biggest difference between the two films is that, ultimately, one evokes cherishing where the latter becomes almost immediately insignificant.
Released just before Christmas in 1983, “A Christmas Story” serves as a time capsule for a specific time and space. The niche names of 1940s toys and precious vintage hats have become historic trinkets for us to examine and appreciate every time we see the film.
TBS and TNT devote a full 24 hours to the film to this day, and it was even selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry in 2012 due to its cultural, historic, and/or aesthetic significance.
However, the film cannot be discussed without acknowledging the overtly stereotyped and racist scene in a Chinese restaurant; the film has been immortalized and cherished to the point that it is rarely criticized, as if nostalgia and warmth can simply override blaringly problematic moments in the film. The Parkers’ cultural ignorance is then also archived into our country’s history, serving as a reminder of persistent racism.
“A Christmas Story” and “A Christmas Story Christmas” are available to stream on HBO Max.