A Christmas Story is one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, so obviously that made it prime territory for Hollywood to try and transform it into a successful franchise. Some may remember My Summer Story, the 1994 sequel that followed the adventures of the Parker family, but with an entirely different backdrop and cast. What some may not know is there was a direct sequel to the original film made in 2012, and it's totally worth watching.
That's not because A Christmas Story 2 is a sequel that surpasses or maintains the quality of the original. In fact, this straight-to-DVD flick is a pretty godawful and takes iconic moments from the original adventure and twists them in the most bizarre way. At the same time, the film incorporates some weird modern humor that is so off base from the tone of the original, it's truly hilarious.
It takes all of a few minutes of the film to make this point, as Ralphie's little brother Randy says "bitch" in front of his mother as she's trying to bundle him up. It's a pretty jarring scene for those familiar with the original, but soon loses its edge after it's said four more times not long after. Weirdly enough, A Christmas Story 2 is completely devoid of swearing from then on, which only makes its start all the more baffling.
Once the cursing slows down, we're introduced to the "rackin frackin" pseudo-swearing audiences will remember from the original A Christmas Story. The words travel up through the basement vent, where "The Old Man" is engaged in a battle of wills against the faulty furnace. He emerges from the basement disheveled, and I was shocked to see Daniel Stern is now playing the character Darren McGavin helped make iconic.
For the record, Daniel Stern is a terrific actor, and he already has two great contributions to the holiday genre with his role as Marv in the two Home Alone films. That said, this is about one of the most hilarious miscastings I've seen. Not only does he look younger than Darren McGavin was in the original, they look nothing alike. It's incredibly jarring, especially considering a bulk of the casting for this feature is spot on.
What's even more jarring, and hilarious, is that Daniel Stern also plays the old man more like Marv than "The Old Man." This is mostly accomplished through Stern's great talent for physical comedy, which only amplifies the obvious comparisons between him and the bandit. It's awful, but in a good way because it almost feels like a fan fiction where Marv found a time machine and is now in deep cover in an effort to steal an antique leg lamp.
Once all the introductions are through and the audience has gotten a chance to see how everyone is grown, A Christmas Story 2 finally works its way into what the meat and potatoes is of the story. Ralphie is fifteen and he's hoping to get much more than a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Specifically, he's got his eyes on a used 1939 Mercury Eight, which he's hoping will win the heart of a girl at school, Drucilla Gootrad.
Unfortunately, Ralphie's plan for a vehicle gets derailed when he inexplicably climbs into the vehicle when it's up on a ramp and accidentally pulls it out of park. This results in an overly long and painful sequence that in what feels like two minutes later ends on Ralphie with his pants around his ankles screaming "fudge" in slow motion as a deer goes through the canopy top of the vehicle. The owner of the car dealership is not impressed.
The owner then tells Ralphie he has to find money to fix the canopy before Christmas, or he's going to jail. Ralphie attempts to ask his dad for the money and, get this, even explains the severity of the situation, and is shot down. Left with no other option, Ralphie and his friends (grown versions of his friends from the first movie) get jobs at a local department store and hope they can get the money.
What happens from there is a slow rollout of every iconic moment from A Christmas Story, but in some of the weirdest ways possible. A character will suddenly bring a random object from the first movie into the conversation without provocation, and rarely in a way that feels natural. It's rough, but at the same time funny because something will just get said out of the blue and no one reacts like a normal human would in that scenario.
Speaking of which, Ralphie and his friends exploits at the department store are the classic case of characters in an adventure creating problems simply to advance the plot. I won't spoil the whole deal, but Flick (the one who stuck his tongue on a pole) decides to stick his tongue in a suctioned mail chute. This then results in his face being stretched in a scene that feels borderline pornographic for ways that can only be explained in picture.
Granted, teenagers do stupid things, but there comes a point where one has to wonder how hard up this department store is for help. Also, some of the issues the boys get into are ridiculously petty, especially when they know Ralphie will go to jail if they fail. This whole movie is as filled with that overall lack of urgency or panic almost as much as it isn't Drucilla who all but disappears throughout a majority of the adventure.
I won't spoil how things play out from there, but believe me when I say things get far more incomprehensible and unbelievable on Ralphie's end as this story reaches its climax. I will say there's a particularly long butcher shop scene where The Old Man gets in an overtly long exchange that does little more than drive home that food was really cheap in 1946. It's weird and out of place, but entertaining all the same.
At its core, A Christmas Story 2 is a bad sequel. What makes it an awesomely bad film, however, is how it takes a Christmas classic like A Christmas Story and turns it into some bizarre cash grab that viewers will appreciate simply due to their knowledge of the first feature. Personally, I would suggest watching this shortly after watching the original for maximum appreciation, which won't ever be that hard to do this time of year.