The Reel Review
Peter Billingsley reprises his role as bright-eyed Ralphie Parker in this sequel to the hilarious 1983 holiday classic, A Christmas Story. Set 33 years later in 1973, a now-adult Ralphie seeks to restore the holiday spirit to his loved ones when he returns with his wife and kids to visit his mom at his childhood home in Indiana after his old man dies just days before Christmas.
As well-intended as it is, this heartfelt homage/sequel (which smartly ignores the dreadful 1994 spin-off and 2012 sequel) gets off to a very slow and shaky start, with Billingsley’s Ralphie, who also takes over as narrator from the original film’s screenwriter Jean Shepherd, struggling to make it as a novelist in Chicago. Once the family gets to Ralphie’s hometown, the film slowly starts to find its footing, as Ralphie reunites with his childhood buddies. Four of the original child actors – who played Ralphie’s little brother, his two best friends and bully Scut Farkus – return, with Julie Hagerty (Airplane!, Just Friends) stepping in as Ralphie’s doting mother.
While some elements in the film (cars, cash registers, trains) are factually inaccurate, the film does get the important parts right in giving an early 1970s update to the original 1940s setting, as evidenced in photos during the closing credits. This much gentler slice of nostalgia has less of the snarky charm of the original, but it does have a nice, redemptive twist and a wistful tearjerker of a finale that helps to make up for the film’s earlier shortcomings, making A Christmas Story Christmas a sweet but much slighter footnote to the original.
• Peter Billingsley says the film is a love letter to Darren McGavin, who died in 2006 at the age of 83. “Darren was the best. He was such a gifted actor and a great person and such a mentor to me in the shooting of the first film and was kind of like having (another) dad.”
• Tony and Oscar-nominated Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Absence of Malice), now 83, who played Ralphie’s mom in the 1983 film, retired from acting in 2007.
• American humorist Jean Shepherd, who based A Christmas Story on his own semi-autobiographical childhood stories, was an amateur ham radio enthusiast up until his death in 1999 at the age of 78. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says it was Shepherd who formed his entire comedic sensibility.