While it wasn’t a success upon initial release in 1983, the original A Christmas Story has since gone on to be regarded as a holiday classic. It should come as no surprise then that it has actually inspired several sequels, though it may since they have all been forgotten by almost everyone. 2 were produced for PBS’ American Playhouse, who had already aired 2 additional movies about Ralphie and his family prior to the release of A Christmas Story, and another theatrical movie was released in 1994 under the title It Runs in the Family (later retitled to My Summer Story). All of these were made with the involvement of Jean Shepherd, the author whose semi-fictional stories were the inspiration for all 6. Yet another sequel, simply title A Christmas Story 2 was released straight-to-DVD in 2012 that mostly ignored Shepherd’s writing, opting instead to invent its own story with poorly received results. Since you most likely didn’t know any of that, or had at least forgotten you did, it seemed the time was right to revisit this beloved property once more.
It’s 1973 and Ralph Parker (Peter Billingsley, reprising the role) is now all grown up with a family of his own, and is living in Chicago. He has taken a year off from work to try and become a novelist and as Christmas approaches, his self-imposed deadline is fast approaching. Every publisher he has submitted his manuscript to has so far rejected it, but with the support of his wife Sandy (a charming Errin Hayes) and children Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne) he remains optimistic. The family is also beginning to prepare for a visit from his parents when his mother (Julie Hagerty) calls to tell him that his father has unexpectedly passed away, so they instead head back to his childhood home of Hammond, Indiana to be with her. Upon arriving, Mrs. Parker (who apparently has never been given a first name) informs them that because of how excited he had been for the coming Christmas, his father would have wanted them to spend the time together celebrating the holiday and that they could put off the funeral arrangements until afterwards, and so Ralph now feels pressured to do everything he can to make sure that this year is extra special.
Every actor they could get to return from the original makes an appearance here, with Ralph’s childhood friends Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb) getting ample screen time, and little brother Randy (Ian Petrella) and bully Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) also making brief appearances and it is genuinely nice to see them all again. There are lots of callbacks to the most memorable moments of the first movie sprinkled throughout this one, though it thankfully avoids the trap of so many recent nostalgia-inspired sequels and doesn’t replicate any of them wholesale, instead choosing to create new memories. Most of the bite of the original is gone, instead being replaced with a warmer, gooier center but that mostly works here. There was effectively no chance that this would be able to live up to Bob Clark’s classic, and it doesn’t, but it’s still a sweet, funny little movie that will easily charm all who watch it, whether they were already fans or not. ★★★★
RATED PG FOR LANGUAGE, AND SOME RUDE MATERIAL / BEHAVIOR.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor