Review by Jim Clavin
In 1994 the 1st 'sequel' to "A Christmas Story" came out and in Jean Shepherd's own words it was a 'turkey'. It was directed by Bob Clark, written by Shepherd, Clark, and Leigh Brown (same as ACS) using his stories that he told for so many years and most importantly, it was narrated by Jean Shepherd whose golden voice provided much of the magic in all his movies. But as Shepherd admitted later the casting was terrible.
Fast forward to early 2012 when it was announced there would be a sequel. Very little was known about it and it wasn't until the trailer hit that we had any inkling as to what it was about. Now we know...
First off the movie brings forth all the main characters from ACS only older. Ralphie is now learning to drive and instead of a BB gun for Christmas he is focused on a 1939 Mercury Model 8. A lot of the gags from the first movie are recycled. The old man reading the paper and complaining about baseball, the battle with the furnace, Randy getting wrapped up for the cold, Flick putting his tongue in the wrong place, and more. There is even an "OHHHHHHH! FFUUUDDDGGGE!" snuck in.
There are three groups of fans to be attracted here. Those who only have seen the original movie and know nothing of Jean Shepherd's other works (movies, books, columns, radio, and live performances) will be simply amused by the attempt. The second audience is made up of the many fans of Jean Shepherd who listened to him for over 20 years on the radio and know the hundreds of stories he told while they lay at night huddled in bed with the transistor radio under their pillows listening intently. They will be sadly disappointed by the total departure from Shepherd that this movie takes. The third group are those who have never seen the original or maybe just once. They will find it to be a funny, perhaps a bit silly at times.
Nat Mauldin wrote the screenplay and narrated the movie, just like Shepherd did in 1983, but the similarity stops there. While he gets a good grade for the screenplay in general, he totally misses the mark by not doing the necessary research to introduce new story lines and characters which could easily have been pulled from the bounty of material available. The only excuse for this would possibly have been not being able to get permission from the Shepherd estate, even though they had received permission from Turner who owns the movie rights for the original. If he tried and was refused cooperation I can understand having to go the route he did. As far as narration of the movie - he definitely is no Jean Shepherd. At times it seems he is straining to echo the tones of Shepherd, but falls flat.
One other thing this movie was sadly lacking was that of Darren McGavin. Darren is a very tough act to follow in the role of the old man and Daniel Stern did not rise to the occasion. Daniel Stern was the narrator in the TV series "The Wonder Years" which was inspired by Shep. Perhaps he should have tried out for the part of narrator here.
Many other things hinge on the 'rights' issue stated above. Shepherd never had a girl named Drucilla. There was Daphne Bigelow and Wanda Hickey. About the time he discovered girls he also discovered the medicinal benefits of yeast for acne. "Hank's World of Wheels" was "Friendly Fred's" and Shep never referred to his father as "my father". It was always "The Old Man". Sadly missing was his mothers red chenille robe with petrified egg on the collar and the rheostats (curlers) in her hair. And lots more...
And finally, the music has a very vague connection with the original soundtrack but somehow became mixed up with a "Home Alone" sound. In the original movie the music reflected Christmas and family with a bit of fun thrown in. This movie it sounds too slapstick.
Loosely based on Shepherd's book "In God We Trust - All Others Pay Cash" as was the first movie, it fails to draw upon the other stories and characters that Shepherd was famous for. Although this is being billed as the sequel, it is in fact the second sequel. "My Summer Story" was the first official sequel and held more to the story lines of Shepherd's tales from both the book and radio. A Christmas Story 2 is more like one of Ralphie's daydreams only by the writer. None of the new material came from the book on which the original movie was based. Actually the original movie was based on material from a second book by Jean Shepherd, "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters. Both books were collections of short stories and small parts of those stories made it into the original movie. There were a lot of other story lines taken from Shep's radio broadcasts and other endeavers, the most famous being "Flicks Tongue" which was originally told on January 27, 1968 on the radio.
Was it worth waiting almost 30 years for? They should have taken a little more time to get it right.