(director/writer: Clay Kaytis; screenwriters: Nick Schenk/based on the book by Jean Shepherd “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”; cinematographer: Mattew Clark; editor: David Walsh Heinz; music: Jeff Morrow; cast: Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker),  Erinn Hayes (Sandy Parker), River Drosche (Mark), Julianna Layne (Julie), Julie Hagerty (Mrs. Parker), RD Robb (Schwartz), Scott Schwartz (Flick), Zack Ward (Officer Scut Farcas), Yano Anaya (Grover Dill), Ian Patrella (Randy); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Irwin Zwilling, Marc Toberoff, Cale Boyter, Jay Ashenfelter, Peter Billingsley, Vince Vaughn; Warner Bros/HBO Max; 2022)

“What’s great is seeing Billingsley play the same role as an adult that he played as a kid.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Clay Kaytis (“The Angry Birds Movie”/”The Christmas Chronicles”) is director of this sequel of a beloved Yuletide classic that opened in movie houses in 1983 and has frequently played on cable ever since. There were two other sequels, My Summer Story (1994) and the direct-to-video A Christmas Story 2 (2012), with both being awful. The latest sequel is based on the novel by Jean Shepherd entitled “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”. The screenplay is co-written by Nick Schenk and Kaytis.

It’s set in 1973 Chicago, three years after the original. Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) is now an adult with a family of young kids Mark (River Drosche) and Julie (Julianna Layne), who is a struggling writer
to succeed as a writer. Ralphie as a kid was obsessed with getting a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Realizing his responsibilities as the family provider, Ralphie tells his wife Sandy (Erinn Hayes) that if he’s not published after a year from this Christmas he’ll give up his dream and get a regular job. The BB gun obsession was much funnier.

What’s great is seeing Billingsley play the same role as an adult that he played as a kid.

Bad news comes during Christmas, as Ralphie’s father dies (played in the original by the late Darren McGavin) and he returns to his Indiana childhood home to comfort his mom (Julie Hagerty, replacing the original film’s now retired Melinda Dillon), who tells him despite the death she wants him to make sure the family has a happy Christmas.

Flick (Scott Schwartz), the kid who got dared into a frozen tongue, now owns a bar in his hometown, and Schwartz (RD Robb), the one who dared him, has run up a large tab there. The one who bullied Ralphie, Scut Farcus (Zack Ward), is now a cop. While Ralphie’s brother Randy (Ian Patrella) is a world traveling businessman, away for the holidays.

Though not as good or as funny as the original, it’s still enjoyable as decent family value holiday fare or as nostalgia. It would be better if it had a zippier pace and funnier stories.

The film was shot in Bulgaria, which makes a good substitute for Indiana.

REVIEWED ON 12/28/2022  GRADE: B