8-Bit Christmas (2021)

8 bit christmas poster 2021 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Does have heart and a redemption by the end

A lot of similarities to A Christmas Story but for good reasons

Movie Info

Movie Name: 8-Bit Christmas

Studio:  New Line Cinema/Star Thrower Entertainment/Warner Bros

Genre(s): Seasonal/Comedy/Family

Release Date(s): November 24, 2021

MPAA Rating: PG

8 bit christmas neil patrick harris sophia reid gantzert paperboy

I’m going to send you into flashback-world!

Christmas is a time when magic can happen…or not.  Annie Doyle (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) wants a cellphone but her father Jake (Neil Patrick Harris) has big objections to it.  With dreams of the perfect Christmas on the line, he has decided to tell her the story of his Christmas in 1988 and his insatiable thirst to for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The NES is what every kid wanted, and Jake (Winslow Fegley) was no different…but an accident has turned everyone against the NES, and Jake’s dreams of convincing his mother Kathy (June Diane Raphael) and father John (Steve Zahn) into buying one are getting slimmer and slimmer.

8 bit christmas nes nintendo

The glory and beauty of the NES

Directed by Michael Dowse, 8-Bit Christmas is a family holiday comedy.  The film premiered on HBO and adapts the 2013 Kevin Jakubowski book (Jakubowski wrote the adaptation).  It received moderate or average review upon its release.

A Christmas Story captures the joy (and fear) of Christmas in a kid’s heart.  8-Bit Christmas looked to modernize this idea and story for kids in the 1980s.  I vividly remember Christmas 1988 because of the NES.  I got my in September and desperately wanted Super Mario 2 which was nearly impossible to get…my dad did get a copy and played A Christmas Story type gifting of it to me.  This creates both an interesting tie to 8-Bit Christmas and gets to what 8-Bit Christmas does right.  Due to aspects of the story, a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

8 bit christmas spaghetti os vomit

Uh-oh Spaghetti-Os! (truth be told I have this same reaction thinking of Spaghetti-Os)

A lot of 8-Bit Christmas does feel like A Christmas Story rehash.  It is the same characters (like the parents), same events, and same maniacal desire for one item above all others for Christmas.  While this is true, it is why A Christmas Story does hold for modern kids…much of the same things Ralphie goes through are what kids today still go through…and a kid like Jake also experienced thirty years ago.  It is cyclical and that is why these movies can be watched by multigenerational groups.

The cast is decent.  Neil Patrick Harris has proven himself on multiple occasion to be a great narrator and point man for a story.  His younger version Winslow Fegley doesn’t look much like him but he too feels a step above a lot of kid actors.  June Diane Raphael and Steve Zahn are a bit more of cardboard cutouts of parents (but to be fair they are Jake’s perceptions of his parents and not the actual people).  The rest of the children actors hold their own as well and there is a nice sequence with David Cross to help drive home the idea of the film.

8 bit christmas treehouse ending steve zahn winslow fegley

Ok…this kind of got me

Visually the movie is steeped in nostalgia as expected.  It is a bit odd in that the movie presents a lot of real Nintendo games from the period but then has a fake Street Fighter-esque game to show their point of the Power Glove (a good Street Fighter-esque game didn’t really exist to illustrate the point).  I will say my favorite laugh-out loud moment was the Spaghetti-Os…which did go on a long time.

What redeems 8-Bit Christmas is the ending.  He doesn’t get the NES, but it is really a story about his relationship with his father.  It is actually rather tender and emotional which was a bit unexpected from how the movie was progressing.  In it (and David Cross), 8-Bit Christmas does succeed.  It fumbles and meanders a bit along the way, but in general it is a worthy addition to the Christmas rotation…long live the NES!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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