It’s that time of year where I get to watch festive movies and call it work. All kidding aside, I’ve seen ads for this movie on social media and it piqued my interest. I’ve heard people say it was reminiscent of “A Christmas Story.” And even though I’ve never seen it, I can see the same elements resonating here.
Neil Patrick Harris plays Jake Doyle as an adult (with Winslow Fegley playing the younger version), a man in Chicago with a daughter named Annie (Sophie Reid-Gantzert). After incessant asking for a cell phone for Christmas, he tells the story of how he tried to get an NES for Christmas. After the local rich kid Timmy Keane (Chandler Dean) shows off his Nintendo, he and his friends, Mikey Trotter (Che Tafari), hypochondriacal Evan Olsen (Santino Barnard), siblings Teddy and Tammy Hodges (Braelyn Rankins and Brielle Rankins), and compulsive liar Jeff Farmer (Max Malas) do everything they can to get one of their own.
The cast does an amazing job that really immerses the audiences into the story. Winslow Fegley is great and captures the spirit of every kid who wants the hottest toy. In fact, a lot of the kids are pretty good. Everyone has a distinct personality; from Tammy’s proactive and entrepreneurial spirit to Evan being the closest to a punching bag. And then you have the adults giving solid performances. Steve Zahn balances the strict father who shows his heart at pivotal moments, and his banter with June Diane Raphael got a chuckle out of me. Then there’s David Cross who feels like Old Man Marley from “Home Alone” in how he reminds Jake to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
I know I said that there were similarities to “A Christmas Story,” but this feel like that movie for a contemporary generation. Many viewers, young and old, but especially 80s kids, will relate to the experiences. Like getting on the good side of the kid with the best toys, the fear of the big bully, and even the rise of the video game scare that they made kids violent. But underneath that charm and nostalgia, this movie has a heartfelt message that got me a little teary-eyed.
Without any exaggeration, this definitely has the makings of a modern Christmas classic. It takes “A Christmas Story” and translates it for a modern audience. Top that with an amazing cast and strong writing, this is one that should be included in the family Christmas movie marathon.