Monday, December 12, 2022

'Tis the Season - 8 Bit Christmas (2021)


Streaming Service: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: 8 Bit Christmas (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Family
Length:  1h 37min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: New Line Cinema, Star Thrower Entertainment, Warner Bros., Warner Bros. Pictures, HBO Max
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Kevin Jakubowski
Actors: Winslow Fegley, Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael, Bellaluna Resnick, Sophia Reid-Gantzert, Che Tafari, Santino Barnard, Max Malas, Brielle Rankins, Braelyn Rankins, Cyrus Arnold, Chandler Dean, Jacob Laval, Katia Edith Wood, Tom Rooney, David Cross, Kathryn Greenwood, Louise Nicol, Erica Levene, David MacInnis, Monica Dottor, Sofie Michal Maiuri, Alex Spencer, Miles Kerim, Luca Doulgeris, Mike Wilmot, Christy Bruce
IMDb Blurb: In 1980s Chicago, a 10-year-old sets out on a quest to get the Christmas gift of his generation: the latest and greatest video-game system.

Selina’s Point of View:
If you took The Princess Bride (1987) and mixed it with A Christmas Story (1983), you’d get 8-Bit Christmas. I know that sounds like a hell of a pairing. Both those 80s flicks have huge followings. I’ll admit that I’m only part of the fanbase for The Princess Bride, out of the two of them, but I can appreciate those that really love A Christmas Story.
I think both groups would greatly enjoy 8-Bit Christmas.
In this flick, the story is told by Neil Patrick Harris’ character. His daughter wants a phone for the holidays and he’s comparing it to a time in the 80s when he really wanted a Nintendo. It takes place in the part of the 80s when people were starting to try and say that video games cause violence. (They don’t. Thousands of years of violent history before video games were invented prove that, but I digress.)
It’s a very cute story, mostly played out in flashbacks. The child actors are all very good, especially for their ages, and the nostalgia (for an 80s baby like me) hits hard.
December is my least favorite month for movies, that’s no secret. Christmas flicks just get a tad repetitive. That said, every year there seems to be at least one stand out that’s still part of the family or romance genres. This year it comes early with 8-Bit Christmas.
I loved it. Even the cringey parts still managed to be mild enough that I didn’t have to look away. It was funny, cute, and the ending still brought tears to my eyes.
8-Bit Christmas is worth a watch, and perfectly fine to put on while the whole family is gathered. 

Cat’s Point of View:
In all honesty, I’d forgotten that 8 Bit Christmas had come out last year. I am very happy that we put it on this month’s schedule because it was a lot of fun. The nostalgia made the heart of this ‘80s baby happy, and there was a connection within the story to draw in kids of today.
It felt like a very heartwarming and funny ‘back in my day’ story that I would tell my kid but brought to life on the screen. I’m sitting right there in the generation of the father character. Good grief there was so much to relate to within his story. Though, I couldn’t go to the neighbor kid’s house to play a Nintendo. I could only play on one when I was visiting with cousins. I remember my own burning desire for a game console as a kid. (I didn’t get one ‘til I was in high school. It was a Sega Genesis.) So much of this movie hit home. I was in stitches.
In preparing this article today, I’ve seen a lot of critics compare 8 Bit Christmas with A Christmas Story (1983). They’re not wrong. I got a lot of the same ‘feels’ that the older holiday classic provided. I do, however, feel that this is a more elevated and updated narrative that can connect better with the current day. Some aspects of the classic just don’t translate to today’s audiences in the same way, and I think it’s beginning to lose ground for that reason. I appreciate it when new voices step up to bridge the generational gap like that – whether they intended to or not.

8 Bit Christmas also blended in the ensemble factor where the group of friends hatches a plan for a caper, rather than focusing on the single child’s ambitions for the desired Christmas present. It played out as a significantly more family-friendly set of shenanigans than Good Boys (2019) while giving off some of those same vibes.
Then, of course, I absolutely adored the cast.
I sincerely believe that the presence of Neil Patrick Harris (A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Matrix Resurrections, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent) in a cast makes any project better. I adored him as the adult Jake Doyle character, telling the story. I enjoyed his interactions with his on-screen daughter. The small scene interjections they had together called back a bit to the storytelling grandfather in The Princess Bride (1987), as well.

Steve Zahn (George & Tammy, Night at the Museum: Kamunrah Rises Again, Where'd You Go, Bernadette) was also an excellent pick for the somewhat zany DIY dad. A lot of the heavy lifting, however, went to Winslow Fegley (Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Nightbooks, Lyle Lyle Crocodile) anchoring the cast playing young Jake Doyle. I believed every minute of his delivery and I am really looking forward to what he does in the future. Frankly, all of the kids were great. I have zero complaints whatsoever.
Nostalgia and ensemble comedy aside, 8 Bit Christmas was just overflowing with heart. It’s a great story about family and not getting sucked into the materialism that drowns the Holiday Season. It’s hard – we’ve likely all done it at one point or another. This story, however, doesn’t get preachy at all. It was a likable and fun ride that gave a subtle nudge rather than beating you over the head with the message.
I was actually misty at the end. These movies are making me leak from the eyes left and right this year, I swear.
I would absolutely recommend 8 Bit Christmas to anyone that enjoys family comedy, and I can’t wait to watch it again with my teen since she didn’t get a chance to watch it the first time with me.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore – 66%
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

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