- Directed by Michael Dowse
- November 24, 2021
A father relates to his daughter the story of how he got his Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 80s.
The above summary is a very shallow summation of the story of 8-Bit Christmas. The story itself is about one child’s desire to not only get the ultimate Christmas gift/coolest toy and how events with the perspective of time and the wisdom of age can become fond memories.
When I first heard about this film there were instant comparisons between it and A Christmas Story. One can certainly see why since A Christmas Story and this are both about getting that most desired gift for Christmas and all the hijinks and craziness that can come from first wanting it and Christmas Day.
Being a child of the era in which this movie is set I identify more with this film than I do with A Christmas Story. This was my time. Atari was awesome but Nintendo was like nothing else before it. 8-Bit Christmas is an exaggerated look at life in the 80s when Nintendo was the big thing. For girls it was the Cabbage Patch doll (which also gets a significant shoutout in the story) but for boys it was Nintendo. It captures and amplifies the craze that there was around this system which at the time was absolutely groundbreaking.
Neil Patrick Harris plays Jake Doyle, a recently divorced father taking his daughter Annie (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) over to his mother’s (June Diane Raphael) for Christmas. Annie is begging her dad for her own phone for Christmas and in order to relate why she will not be getting one for Christmas, Jake relates the story about the Nintendo they find still in Jake’s childhood home.
The story Harris’s adult Jake relates about his younger self (Winslow Fegley) is as much a trip down memory lane as it is a lesson related to Annie. Harris comes off as authentic with his Jake occasionally getting lost in the memory and losing the point of the story he is trying to tell as would anyone on a heavy nostalgia trip.
Fegley’s Jake becomes increasingly frustrated as any kid would. Jake must deal with a mother and father (Steve Zahn) who do not understand his desire/”need” for that 8-bit piece of wonder, his sister Lizzy (Bellaluna Resnick) who throws him under the bus by playing the saint in front of her family, and narcissistic rich kid Timmy Keane (Chandler Dean) who owns the only NES anyone has in the neighborhood and uses it to exert power over others.
8-Bit Christmas is a Christmas movie that is not only a slice of life but also a celebration of a particular craze as well as family in general. This does not look down on and does not knock family but rather lovingly relates how what bothers us in the past can become a fond memory in the present. And even though it is a comedy, 8-Bit Christmas has a heart tugging ending that is justifiably earned.
There is some commentary about the present day versus the 80s. Harris’s younger self wears what would have been termed in the 80s “girl boots” to school which automatically makes him the target of the school bully Josh (Cyrus Arnold). There is a heavy-handed line about the 80s being less open minded than today.
8-Bit Christmas is a Christmas film that not only captures the holiday spirit but imparts a lesson and manages to be very entertaining with an emotional ending. It is certainly one of the better Christmas films of the past several years. I say check it out!