8-Bit Christmas Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNSPYiyL89Y

PLOT: A young boy in the 1980’s desperately tries to get his parents to buy him the latest Nintendo gaming system.

REVIEW: It’s that time of year again. Even before the turkey hits the Thanksgiving table, streaming services begin the yearly assault of Christmas-themed features. The films in question are all too often either saccharine sweet or sickeningly cutesy and annoying. On the rare occasion, you may find one or two that manage to entertain beyond just the kitsch family movie night. 8-Bit Christmas is one of those movies. The story of a boy who desperately wants the new Nintendo gaming system under the tree has the charm to spare. Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley, June Diane Raphael, and Steve Zahn, this Michael Dowse directed flick is an entertaining blend of comedy, nostalgia, and a little sentiment thrown in for good measure.

Like many a holiday fable, we meet our hero as an adult. Jake Doyle (Harris) is a good and funny dad trying to convince his daughter Annie (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) to feign interest in a story from his youth. You see, back in the 1980s, young Jake (Fegley) wanted a Nintendo gaming system more than anything in the world. Unfortunately for him, his loving parents (played by Raphael and Zahn) are struggling to afford the latest gifts and trends for not only Jake but his rambunctious sister Lizzy (Bellaluna Resnick). And since only one kid in town seems to have the coveted prize, Jake and his pals decide that they must figure out a way to make the purchase. Will he finally get his most valued gift? Or will a lesson be taught? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Neil Patrick Harris and Sophia Reid-Gantzert start things off right. From a script by Kevin Jakubowski, the father and daughter bring on the energy and heart. We’ve seen this a million times over. A parental figure telling their offspring about the adventures of their youth is nothing new. Thankfully, the story is so universal and relatable that it’s easy to connect for the viewer. We all had that toy we so badly longed to find under the tree. While we don’t spend too much time with adult Jake, it’s a solid narrative that highlights Patrick’s charm, and frankly, it all pays off in its undeniably sweet final moments. For those that well up with tears at the drop of a hat, you’ll likely need tissues.

The main story here revolves around young Jake. Winslow Fegley is a terrific young actor. He ably handles the comedic elements as well as the more dramatic moments. If you are going to anchor most of the movie on one performance, you’d better get the right person for it. Fegley fulfilled that job rather well. It also helps that his mom and dad are the delightful June Diane Raphael and Steve Zahn. Casting is the key here. It’s nice to see the father in a film like this that is loving and caring instead of just being a moron who fills the comic relief quota. Both Raphael and Zahn bring heart to their roles. Any well-meaning parent who can’t afford the expensive toys their kids want can relate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu44qhai76Y&t=12s

Considering we’ve seen this story many times before, it’s surprising how it still works as well as it does. 8-Bit Christmas competently finds some of what made A Christmas Story such a holiday staple. The comedy with a heart may rely on nostalgia – especially considering the plot – but it does so without wearing out its welcome. It’s a short and sweet flick that offers genuine laughs. When the children find themselves in a wacky high jinx mission to purchase the Nintendo treasure, it’s ridiculous but engaging enough. And while the ending runs the risk of being manipulatively tear-inducing, it manages to be far more heartfelt and genuine than expected. It’s a modern Christmas tale that finds a nice balance between the aw-shucks moments and the comedy.

8-Bit Christmas is the kind of movie that a family can enjoy together. It’s sweet, funny, and it managed to give me the feels as the closing credits arrive. There’s nothing original here, yet it still feels like its own thing. It also helps that the film is as well cast as it is. Neil Patrick Harris is terrific as what is essentially the narrator. Yet it’s Fegley, Raphael, and Zahn that help this rise above typical holiday entertainment. And then there is the story itself. Many of you will relate to wanting the newest game console to arrive and bring all your video game dreams to life. As someone who has a low tolerance for most holiday movie offerings that inundate us every year, this one stands out in all its charming and festive glory. You can check out 8-Bit Christmas yourself and see if it brings cheers or jeers as it’s currently available on HBO Max.

Source: JoBlo.com

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.