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Saturday, December 18, 2021

8-Bit Christmas

Director: Michael Dowse

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema

Level up for 8-Bit Christmas but level down on full power!

This week, we’re heading back to the good ol 'Christmas 1980s roots. Truth be told, some critics had some doubtful but very little expectations for this new holiday film. The film is based on the story written by Kevin Jakubowski, who also serves as the head writer. And of course, if you guys had previously read the book and found it was just “okay" while you’re viewing the trailer at the same time, it makes you think that this film can be little more than goofy kids stuff just like Home Alone or Jim Carrey’s The Grinch movie. But in a surprising turn of events, 8-Bit Christmas is a holiday movie that stands the test of time for viewers of all ages, featuring the cast members of Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley, June Diane Raphael, and Steve Zahn.

8-Bit Christmas takes place in 1988 and tells the story of a young boy named Jake Doyle, the prototypical 80s kid who wants just one thing for Christmas: a Nintendo Entertainment System. Much like Ralphie chasing his beloved Red Ryder, Jake concocts scheme after scheme (often featuring his grade school pals) to make sure a NES is underneath the tree on Christmas morning.

Child actor Winslow Fegley (Disney+ Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made) stars in the film as young Jake Doyle, a prototypical 80s kid who only wishes to have a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas while Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) portrays an adult version of Jake Doyle.

The film is directed by Michael Dowse whose recent projects include The F Word (featuring Daniel Radcliffe) and Stuber (one with Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista in it). With his direction in one hand, the story of 8-Bit Christmas is very much nostalgia-bait for 80s (and even early 90s) kids. It is filled with period-specific references, decor, clothing, language, and other holiday goodies from several Christmas 80s films, including 1983’s A Christmas Story. Fortunately for the cast and crew members, it never comes off as too hokey or pandering when shooting multiple scenes on the set and guiding each other on what Christmas movies are all about. Dowse really does a remarkable job of capturing the essence of that Christmas time period, making it look as if this is another John Hughes movie or something. It often makes me think (and to feel) like this is a Christmas flick where one excels higher expectations.

Speaking of references, this film is basically like a retelling of A Christmas Story, but in a modernized way. If one like myself can take a guess today, we must know that we live in a dastardly world filled with technology, streaming services, and newer video game systems being released, such as Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 5 (or PS5 for short), with the latter is something people are worth fighting for to get those game systems like it was Black Friday in the nutshell. It is also noted that the story also strongly believes that one can enjoy this movie even without being born somewhere in the 1980s or 1990s.

As the film is enjoyable and pleasant, some disappointments came up about this film. The story seems to be sloppy and somewhat flawful as they try to replicate the successes of those decorative Christmas 80s films and other source materials. The script-writing seems to be dimmer and less lazier than ever. Even throwing too much comedy in there isn’t helping as well, but despite some goofier material and spoiled-sassy moments being present throughout the film, this movie has a poignant family-based message about the holiday season. Final thing,iIn case you’re wondering, the entire film plot is basically a time-frame narrative told by Adult Jake (portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris), and it features some great performances by Young Jake's parents (both portrayed by Steve Zahn and June Diane Raphael).

I’m not going to be judgemental this time when it comes to Christmas movies, but I have to say 8-Bit Christmas is an ok 100-minute movie from the way pop cultures worked back in the 1980s-era. The actors in this film nailed it in every which way. It’s a movie for parents and teenagers, but for children, I highly caution this for the sake of any PG-13 rating exposures being present. In case anyone is asking, this is the one to show what it was like back then based on your childhood. Despite some downfalls and lack of anything new, at least I’m glad this film is not a reboot to any classic Christmas films. You may or may not like it, but this Christmas movie is something you should put on your holiday watch list. The film is up on HBO Max.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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