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A Christmas Story 2

2012 | 86 min | PG | 1.78:1

A Christmas Story 2


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A Christmas Story 2


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A Christmas Story 2 Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 4, 2012

It’s not as though the works of Jean Shepherd have been refused numerous radio, television, and movie interpretations over the years, but submitting a direct sequel to the holiday perennial “A Christmas Story” almost 30 years after its initial theatrical release? That seems like a foolish idea, or perhaps an act of loathsome corporate teat-yanking with a cinematic gem. Indeed, we are now faced with a follow-up to a bona fide classic, and it happens to be the most environmentally conscious feature I’ve come into contact with, unafraid to brazenly recycle anything and everything about the 1983 film, hoping to entice a new generation of Ralphie admirers. Shamelessly derivative and plasticized, “A Christmas Story 2” will only have you wondering why you’re not watching the original picture again.

A few years have passed for the Parkers, but nothing much has changed. Young Randy (Valin Shinyei) is obsessed with Buck Rogers, bombing around the neighborhood in costume. Ralphie (Braeden Lemasters) is nearing his 16th birthday, aching to land a set of wheels to help woo a pretty classmate (Tiera Skovbye). Mother (Stacey Travis) remains a loyal homemaker, trying to keep order with “bite the bar” threats while losing her patience with The Old Man (Daniel Stern), who continues to grouse about everything, offer clichéd pearls of wisdom, and battle with a broken furnace. When Ralphie’s attempt to feel out the majesty of a prized used car backfires into an accident, the hapless, bespectacled one needs cash quick to cover the damages before his parents find out, requiring a part-time job at local department store Higbee’s, alongside pals Flick (David W. Thompson) and Schwartz (David Buehrle). Unable to handle the pressures of the holiday shopping season, Ralphie senses disaster ahead, while the Old Man, unwilling to pay an exorbitant fee for his beloved Christmas turkey, heads into the bitter cold to ice fish his family a proper meal.

Of course, there’s no reason for “A Christmas Story 2” to even exist without the participation of the original cast and crew (sadly, a few have passed away over the decades); however, that doesn’t stop director Brian Levant from attempting the impossible, hoping to match the warm nostalgia and acidic sense of Shepherdian humor from the earlier picture by simply reworking the same jokes with an adolescent Ralphie. It’s actually shocking to find the script by Nat Mauldin (who also accepts narration duties) so slavish to the original, as though anyone sitting down to watch “A Christmas Story 2” might have no working knowledge of the earlier effort, requiring a refresher on established temperaments, habits, and slapstick situations.

Seriously, except for the Bumpus dogs and the terror of Scut Farkus, every single joke and situation of humiliation returns in “A Christmas Story 2.” We’re talking Randy and the excessive snow gear, The Old Man’s furnace fight and turkey obsession, Ralphie’s “Fuuuuuudge!” cry and various fantasies of heroism, a tangle with an irascible department store Santa, the leg lamp, the chop suey/bowling alley location, the reveal of Aunt Clara’s Christmas morning costume, and Flick’s compulsion to stick his tongue on risky things (in this case, a pneumatic tube). From start to finish, it’s a total carbon copy.

In small doses, references to the 1983 film are fine, good for a few tickles as Ralphie’s story marches on. Levant basically wraps the work up in replication, hoping this extended rehash of “A Christmas Story” is enough to qualify as a sequel. There’s also some initial effort to match the brief flashes of profanity that marked the original, while the follow-up chases its own sauciness by building sight gags around female undergarments and breast-centric tomfoolery, bending the PG rating.

What’s new here is the Old Man’s ice fishing obsession, though the sense of isolation and ungodly cold is undercut by the use of cheap backgrounds and echoed sound, keeping the movie uncomfortably set-bound, while crude CGI takes cares of the time machine aspects of the story. Ralphie’s maturation is perhaps the most interesting subplot of the picture, watching the once geeky kid grow as a teenager, developing crushes on girls and praying for some four-wheeled independence to come his way. It’s a thankless job to step in Peter Billingsley’s shoes (or glasses), but Lemasters does what he can, creating an anxious, squeaky Ralphie who can’t seem to avoid trouble. His adventures at Higbee’s would normally be a perfect escape from the family film routine, but Levant doesn’t know what to do with it, falling back on tired slapstick routines to get by.

“A Christmas Story 2” closes with a conventional display of holiday charity and do-goodery, along with a tree-side present unwrapping montage to successfully mirror the original film. It’s a cheap sense of seasonal morality, but appears perfectly at home inside such a relentlessly artificial production. Instead of bringing these itchy characters into a new realm of domestic destruction, encouraging a sequel that urges the franchise forward, “A Christmas Story 2” merely traces over previous accomplishments, hoping adults won’t mind the repetition and kids won’t understand they’re being fed moldy leftovers.

Starring: Daniel Stern, Stacey Travis, Braeden Lemasters
Director: Brian Levant

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