‘A Christmas Story Christmas’ Review: Nostalgia Is Fragile

“A Christmas Story,” Bob Clark’s bittersweet coming-of-age comedy based on the semi-autobiographical writings of the humorist Jean Shepherd, is that rarest of things: a holiday movie that’s actually good. “A Christmas Story Christmas,” the new legacy sequel, is something much more common: a holiday movie that’s very bad.

It’s an important distinction. “A Christmas Story” has gained in repute enormously since its modest release in 1983, to the extent that it has been firmly entrenched in the seasonal canon, cherished for its credible warmth and sly, mischievous humor. “A Christmas Story Christmas” seems destined for swift obsolescence — lost to the featureless sweep of the streaming ecosystem, where nostalgic cash-ins like this seem to vanish as soon as they materialize. When was the last time you thought about, say, “Coming 2 America”?

There have been other “Christmas Story” sequels over the years, including “My Summer Story” (1994) and “A Christmas Story 2” (2012), one of the most reviled sequels ever. This one boasts a stronger connection to the original: Much of the first film’s cast returns, including Peter Billingsley, who starred as the 9-year-old Ralphie, now almost 40 years older. But while there is a strained effort to pay tribute to a recognized classic — the story follows the aging Ralphie’s attempts to recreate his idyllic childhood Christmas for his own family, which entails a lot of nostalgic reminiscence and winking homages — the director, Clay Kaytis, fails to evoke its enduring magic. (Many of the gags are simply flat by comparison. Kid has his tongue stuck to a pole? Funny. Family snowball fight? Dull.) Mostly it made me want to watch the original, which, as always, remains well worth revisiting.

A Christmas Story Christmas
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.

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