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Thursday, January 26, 2023

‘A Christmas Story Christmas’ picks up tale from beloved 1983 holiday movie

“A Christmas Story Christmas,” the sequel to the beloved 1983 film, is almost as sweet, funny, charming and heartfelt as the original. It debuted this week on HBO Max.
For those of us who grew up and grew older with “A Christmas Story,” nothing will ever match its holiday magic of a kid’s adventures and Christmas dreams in the old neighborhood.

But, oh fudge, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and a little bit of nostalgic heartache with the sequel.

Peter Billingsley returns as a grown-up Ralphie, caught up in a bittersweet Christmas trip back to his childhood home. The movie is based on the original, written by Jean Shepherd.

Peter Billingsley played 22Ralphie22 in the original 22A Christmas Story.22
Peter Billingsley played “Ralphie” in the original “A Christmas Story.”

The time is Christmas season 1973, and Billingsley has a wife, two young kids, and a failing career as a writer.

Ralphie Parker’s novel is rejected by a host of publishers when a sad phone call comes from his mother, Mrs. Parker, played by Julie Hagerty.

Ralphie’s father – played so wonderfully in the original by the late Darren McGavin—has died. So Ralphie loads his wife Sandy (Erinn Hayes) and kids Mark (River Drosche) and little Julie (Julianna Layne) into his 1966 sedan with an overheating radiator. They leave Chicago and head back to Cleveland Street in Indiana.

Before long, Ralphie is surrounded by the old gang, who, like him, face the challenges of adulthood.

The late Darren McGavin is fondly remembered as The Old Man in the sequel to A Chirstmas Story
The late Darren McGavin is fondly remembered as The Old Man in the sequel to “A Christmas Story.”

The buddies include Schwartz (R.D. Robb), who still triple-dog dares guys. Flick (Scott Schwartz) has recovered from sticking his tongue on a frozen pole, and now owns the neighborhood bar. Big bully Scut Farkus (Zack Ward), is now a cop, but his two young sons still get their kicks by picking on the Parker family.
Ian Petrella is Randy Parker, Ralphie’s younger brother who no longer wears leggings and is a wealthy businessman.

Schwartz, Flick and Larry Novak (Henry Miller) —a former high school football star – spend much of their time hanging out in Flick’s bar.

Once back in the old house, Ralphie wants to make Christmas special, just the way “the Old Man” did for him.

So he tries everything to recreate that atmosphere. That includes buying a gigantic Christmas tree, which still blows the electric fuse as soon as you plug it in.

Ralphie’s wife wants to go ice skating, but fractures her leg when she falls on the porch. Ralphie’s little girl has to go the emergency room after she gets hit in the eye with a snowball. Ralphie’s son also visits the ER after breaking his arm while sledding.
Then there’s the trip to Higbees department store to see Santa. Ralphie’s kids wait in line for what seems like hours, when the kid in front of them throws up after eating a huge, peppermint sucker.
Ralphie does his Christmas shopping at the store and puts the gifts in his trunk. But the trunk is broken and pops open. When Ralphie goes back to Higbees to get the kids, thieves make off with the gifts.
On top of all this, Ralphie’s mother wants him to write his father’s one-paragraph obituary for the local paper. Ralphie gets hit with writer’s block and just can’t seem to find the right words.
He feels like a failure because his novel has been rejected. But one night, sitting at a typewriter, Ralphie feels inspired and writes a story about what his “Old Man” did to make one Christmas so special.

There are more problems.
The star on top of the Christmas tree falls and is shattered on Christmas Eve. Ralphie’s daughter has to have a star on the tree, so he heads to Flick’s bar, but it’s closed.
So Ralphie climbs through a back window and borrows a star. As he leaves, a cop shines a flashlight in his face—and it turns out to be bully-boy Farkus.

Ralphie gets in Farkus’ police car and heads down the streets to pay for his crime. But there are some surprises and it all concludes with Ralphie’s family and friends celebrating the holiday with the joy of the “Old Man’s” Christmas.

“Darren McGavin…is kind of like an iconic dad for us,” Billingsley, now 51, told UPI. “(Ralphie) loved his Old Man.”
The sequel, Billingsley added, is an “homage to dads in general and, certainly, to the Old Man.”
Billingsley understands the arc to Ralphie’s character. “As a kid, all you want is the perfect Christmas gift,” he told UPI. “But then, when you are a parent, all you want is for Christmas to be perfect for your kids.”

“A Christmas Story Christmas,” isn’t perfect, but it touches the heart with the spirit of the season — and “the Old Man.”

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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