8-Bit Christmas’ Steve Zahn Went Purposefully Against Type In The Making Of The Holiday Movie

Over the course of his career, Steve Zahn has well-earned his reputation as one of the industry’s most affable on-screen presences. From his wonderful turn as Lenny in Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do, to his fantastic performance as Mark Mossbacher earlier this year in the HBO series The White Lotus, he particular excels at playing goofy, aloof characters who can effortlessly elicit smiles from an audience. That being said, no performer ever likes being stuck doing the same thing repeatedly, and in Michael Dowse’s new comedy 8-Bit Christmas he found an opportunity to do something different.

Set to be released on HBO Max this week, 8-Bit Christmas is based on the book of the same name by Kevin Jakubowski (who also adapted it), and centers on ten-year-old Jake Doyle (Winslow Fegley) – a boy growing up in the late 1980s who wants more than anything to get a Nintendo Entertainment System for the titular holiday. His passion is extreme, but he has a number of obstacles in his way, including a father, played by Steve Zahn, who just doesn’t get what the excitement is for.

There are some sillier aspects of the paternal role played by Zahn, such as the fact that he is constantly misplacing his tools as he moves from project to project fixing the house, but it’s certainly more serious than you might expect from the actor. When I spoke with him earlier this month during the virtual press day for 8-Bit Christmas, he confirmed that he was drawn to the part because it offered something different, and added that it contrasts with other family films he has made. As featured in the video at the top of this article, he told me,

Oh yeah, definitely. I played a really goofy dad in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, who is really kind of the opposite, you know – kind of a dreamer and fun dad. And this guy was completely opposite that, which, yeah, it was definitely something I thought attracted me to it, for sure.

From 2010 to 2012, Steve Zahn played Frank Heffley in the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid trilogy, but fans of that franchise are unlikely to conflate that role with John Doyle in 8-Bit Christmas. In the new film he plays a much sterner parent – though it’s also a performance that ultimately comes equipped with a lot of heartfelt emotion.

If you’re looking for some family friendly entertainment this week, 8-Bit Christmas arrives on HBO Max this Wednesday, November 24 – the film co-starring June Diane Raphael, Neil Patrick Harris, and David Cross in addition to the aforementioned Steve Zahn and Winslow Fegley. To discover all of the other new movies set to hit streaming and theaters between now and the end of the year, check out our 2021 Movie Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.