“...earns a place at the top of the leaderboard”
8-BIT CHRISTMAS (2021)
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"In 1980s Chicago, a ten-year-old sets out on a quest to get the Christmas gift of his generation - the latest and greatest video game system."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
Don’t be fooled by the trailer. Despite the format and some similar, familiar beats, this is not A Christmas Story. Instead, it’d be better to call it a much-needed software update.
The film begins in the present day with uber-adult Jake, played by Neil Patrick Harris, being backed into a corner by his tween daughter because all she really wants this Christmas is a cell phone. Rather than give in though, he tells her about the Christmas gift he once begged his parents for that they also refused: the Nintendo 64. What follows is an exuberant and unpredictable story about the year that one holiday season that changed his life. And I want to put an emphasis on just how exuberant and unpredictable it is.
For starters, this film is so lighthearted that no matter what happens you can’t help but have a smile on your face. It is easily one of the best feel-good holiday movies that I’ve seen in years. That ties into the story’s constant subversion from the suspect because even when things don’t go the way Jake expects them too you can’t help but laugh. With that being said, I have to applaud the movie for having so many smart and funny twists. Even the ones that I saw coming made me laugh because of their execution. And I’m trying to be as vague as possible because this film really does have some silly surprises.
Even though Harris is billed as the lead and is telling the story as a modern version of Jake , it’s truly Winslow Fegley that carries the film. Even though he is an actual child, I especially thought he captured the anxiety and uncertainty that we all feel as children leading up until Christmas perfectly. We’ve all been Jake, wondering whether or not our parents really got us what we wanted for Christmas. What I think really enhances this story is its portrayal of the ridiculous lengths kids will go to fit in and the equally ridiculous social consequences that arise when they can’t. I also loved the fact that Jake isn’t alone in his suffering, and we meet his group of misfit friends also trying to score the console for Christmas. While they aren’t in the film nearly as much as I wanted them to be, they offer quite a bit of additional comic relief.
I only think the film falters towards the end. In the last 5 minutes, the story’s message is made as obvious as possible and then there’s a major focus put on a totally different character. It’s not a total stretch for the film, but it doesn’t feel like the ending the story was building towards. Then again, that’s another testament to just how much the film consistently subverts the audience's expectations.
Overall, 8-Bit Christmas takes everything that worked about A Christmas Story - the narration, the exaggeration, the off-kilter humor - but it hits the multiplier button and, in my opinion, earns a place at the top of the leaderboard. What starts off as an old school homage transforms into a more distinguishable, hilarious and hearty holiday film that’s sure to become a new traditional fixture for years to come.