Clay Kaytis started as an animator at Disney — he worked on Pocahontas, Hercules, Tangled and more — before directing The Angry Birds Movie and The Christmas Chronicles. He co-wrote this with Nick Schenk, who has worked with Clint Eastwood on movies such as Gran Torino, The Mule and Cry Macho. The story comes from Schenk and Peter Billingsley, who of course played Ralphie in the original A Christmas Story.
For those of you worried that this movie is a sequel to that film with only a few of the original actors, this is the eighth — ninth if you count the live TV movie — film of Jean Shepherd’s Parker family. This is the first without his voice or based on his writing. Melinda Dillon, who played the mother, has since retired from acting and Darren McGavin sady died in 2006. Returning characters include Randy (Ian Petrella), Flick (Scott Schwartz), Schwartz (R. D. Robb), Scut Farkus (R.D. Robb) and Grover Dill (Yano Anaya).
Instead of Cleveland, this was shot in Hungary and Bulgaria.
33 years after A Christmas Story, Ralphie Parker (Billingsley) has moved to Chicago, married Sandy (Erinn Hayes) and has two children, Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne). He’s taken a year away from work to try and sell his science fiction novel but time is almost up. Yet it’s Christmas and he’s waiting for his mother (Julie Haggerty) and The Old Man to show up, but then he gets the news that his father has died.
This was a hard movie to watch, as my father passed away a few days before it came out and I feel like I’ve lived the hardest moment of this: Ralphie must find a way to write his father’s obituary and explain just how special he was.
Heading back to Indiana, Ralphie tries to give his kids — and his grieving mother — the Christmas that he remembers. The town hasn’t changed so much — at first — with the Bumpkis family and bullies still next door while Flick owns the neighborhood bar and Schwartz is the one running up a tab. Higbee’s is still open and there’s still a line to tell Santa what you want.
There are still thinks that have changed — what has happened with Scut Farkus is inspirational — and the realitization that he has now become the Old Man to his children is sobering. I love that the story that Ralphie tells his family leads directly into the original movie.
There are also some nice nods to Shepherd, with the casseroles in the Parker refrigerator having the names of haracters mentioned in the original film, as well as Shepherd’s other stories. There’s also the sign in Flick’s Bar that says, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” which is the name of Shepherd’s book that the stories “Duel in the Snow,” “The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message,” “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art” and “Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil” were in, the four short stories that were adapted and turned into A Christmas Story.
I was cautious of this movie and while I realize there’s no real need for it, I didn’t regret the time I spent with it. So much of Shepherd’s work is looking back at the past and seeing the good that you didn’t see at the time and trying to bring that into your present. That’s a hard thing to do with loss is so new and raw and real. There are times that I watched this through tears, remembering how many times I watched the first A Christmas Story with my father who always referred to this movie as simple Ralphie. I hope that what I wrote about him was as thoughtful as the obituary in this.