I do not often use the moniker ‘classic’, I find it is thrown around way too frequently in the film critic community. Yet, how else would you describe the holiday perennial favorite A Christmas Story
? That film was basically ignored in it’s theatrical release, but found a large audience through the burgeoning (at the time) home video market and cable television. It was a slow burn of about ten years before this started to out play It’s a Wonderful Life
during the Christmas season. I assume the question most potential viewers have; Is this a legitimate worthwhile sequel or a straight-up cash grab like other films launched from the Warner-Bros. Premier label?
While there is much to be cynical about in this 30 years in the making sequel, namely the reuse of bits from the original, there is also a great deal of charm and goodwill built up onscreen. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed this followup. We find Ralph on the verge of turning 16, yearning for his driver’s license and the attention of the school beauty queen. No longer is he interested in Red Rider BB guns or boyish pursuits, it is Ralph’s younger brother, that now harbors a fascination with another screen icon, Buck Rodgers. Just as in the original, there are a number a black and white fantasy sequences, in which Ralphie envisions himself performing a heroic feat. Although this time it is in the aid of rescuing his crush and not his mom.
After a series of hijinks in the early goings, Ralphie inadvertently causes damage to a car. The owner of the lot, forces the young man to come up with the $85 dollar replacement fee by Christmas Eve. Spinning Ralph into hysterics over the thought that his father will not finance the mishap. So he does the responsible thing and gets a part-time seasonal job gift wrapping packages at the local department store.
The actors have a somewhat thankless task in recreating iconic roles from a film that has been combed over for three decades. Having said that, each does a good job in owning their character. Daniel Stern is a nice replacement for the incomparable Darren McGavin as The Old Man. Sure Peter Billingsley is the epitome of fool-harded gestures during the yule-tide season, but Braeden Lemasters has a nice touch for light physical comedy. Director Brian Levant is no stranger to family films or Christmas themed movies having helmed, The Flintstones and Jingle all the Way to name a few. Let me be upfront this isn’t a new ‘classic’, but it’s not the travesty that was Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.
Director: Brian Levant
Stars: Daniel Stern, Braeden Lemasters, Stacey Travis