I’ve never seen the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I’ve never seen the Jim Carrey version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
If God himself rewrote the Bible or if Tchaikovsky rescored The Nutcracker I wouldn’t touch either one. Hence the trepidation with which I watched A Christmas Story Christmas this weekend.
Tell God it’s possible.
Starring “Ralphie” himself (Peter Billingsley, in what to me is the only movie role he’s ever played), A Christmas Story Christmas features not only Billingsley but nearly every actor who appeared in the original A Christmas Story almost 40 years ago. Most of these actors were children in the ’80s (so was I!) and have done, like, presumably, real jobs in recent decades. That we don’t have professional actors but the “real” Randy, Flick, Schwartz, Scut Farkus, etc. makes it more authentic. A company of Tony-winning, Shakespeare-quoting, Julliard graduates couldn’t have done it better.
Okay, so A Christmas Story Christmas isn’t exactly Citizen Kane. It doesn’t have to be. It’s just fun to watch, and the more you’ve seen the original (for me personally I’ll bet it’s north of 300 times) the more you are rewarded with the slightest nods and subtle tributes. “Homage” is probably an overused word, but here it is apt. The boys here have done the original justice, and I think Jean Sheperd would approve. That’s Billingsley himself doing the narration, and he does a worthy Shep while keeping his own unique voice. This borders on a Christmas miracle.
It’s worth noting that in this new film Ralphie is about 40 years old. (He’s nine in the original and the sequel is 33 years later, so I guess he’s 42.) He’s got a wife, a house, two kids (one up on me there), but yeah, he’s basically me. Of course as I watch movies like Hook or Christmas Vacation or a million other family movies, Christmas and otherwise, I’m the dad in the story now. Usually the clueless dad as these tropes go. The main plot point is doing whatever you can for your kids. At Christmas you just want to make the season magical as your parents did for you.
And to quote another holiday philosopher…
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.