Back in 1983, I was a little older than Ralphie (Peter Billingsly) who was starring in the movie A Christmas Story, the now cult-like favorite of many. When it premiered, it wasn’t received as well at the box office as I am sure they had hoped it would be, but I loved it, and I still love it to this day. It really wasn’t until 1997 that TNT would bring it on during the holiday season that brought more eyes and fans. Then what sealed the deal was in 2004 TBS started airing “24 Hours of A Christmas Story”, with 12 consecutive airings from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day evening. This is what started my family’s annual Christmas morning tradition of putting on A Christmas Story on Christmas morning as we opened our gifts.
My husband and I, being huge fans since we were little were excited to see A Christmas Story Christmas but were a little skeptical since we were not fans of A Christmas Story 2 or the live version that aired in 2017. It’s hard to see other adaptations of a film that is so dear to your heart, pretty much nothing can touch the original. However, seeing that Peter Billingsly would be back as Ralphie as well as a few other characters reprising their roles we thought this might be different, and it was.
A Christmas Story Christmas begins in the 1970s, and we are introduced to a grown-up Ralphie who has a family of his own, a wife, Sandy (Erinn Hayes), and two kids Julie (Julianna Layne) and Mark (River Drosche). He is a dedicated husband and father who is trying to make it big as a writer of science fiction. As we learn about Ralphie as an adult, we hear his voice as the narrator and we are instantly taken back to the original movie.
When Ralphie gets a distressing call from his mother that his “old man” had passed, he decides to take the entire family home to Cleveland Street. I am so glad that they didn’t recast ‘The Old Man” which was brilliantly played by the late Darren McGavin because I feel it would have been a giant disservice. They did recast Mom aka Mrs. Parker, who was originally played by Melinda Dillon (Melina has retired from acting) and is now played by Julie Hagerty. I was not a huge fan of her as Mom, she just didn’t have the same demeanor as Melinda and I feel they played her a lot more meek than the original character. She was funny, I will say that there were some great scenes with her and Sandy.
Of course, with Ralphie returning home we get to see some of the original cast members like Ralphie’s little brother Randy (Ian Petrella), the infamous Flick (Scott Schwartz) who was triple dog dared to stick his tongue on the pole by Schwartz (R.D. Robb) and the biggest bully ever Scut Farkus (Zack Ward). I really, really enjoyed seeing the old cast.
The film is basically one big love letter to the fans and to ‘The Old Man.’ They really played homage to the original cast and the story, and it relies heavily on the viewer having seen the original movie. To really get all the subtle nuances and call-backs to the original, you really need to have been a huge fan of the first movie, which I am sure 99% of the people watching this one will be, and if not, maybe this story will make them want to watch the original.
They really do a great job incorporating those memories and even adding in some of the original scenes, but don’t expect the iconic ones, as Peter Billingsley explains in my interview with him about the film. There is no frozen pole scene or the iconic pummeling scene where Ralphie said the mother of all curse words – “I said Ohh, Fudge!, only I didn’t say “Fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!” although we do get a vague reference to “You’ll shoot your eye out”, as well as we get to see the Bumpasses dogs, and the infamous department store Santa slide.
My husband and I, as huge fans, really enjoyed the film and getting to see where Ralphie and his friends ended up, and really loved the full-circle moment the movie gave us at the end. It was nice revisiting Cleveland Street as it strangely felt like going back to our own childhood,along with Ralphie. I think they did a great job helping us relive some very warm memories without changing everything and creating too many new characters. This movie was everything it should have been, a love letter to fans.
A Christmas Story Christmas is Streaming on November 17th on HBO Max