Last year, Robin struck on an idea she called Holiday-Palooza, which delves into reviewing holiday movies at the end of the year. It’s hard to argue with the logic as this is the season when a lot of them do come out. This year, we’re going to try to make it a point for the both of us to do so but simply include it in our I’ll Review Anything portion of the site. This does seem like the year to do so as, oddly enough, there are more than a few Christmas and holiday themed films coming out lately. So, let’s go start out this year’s Holiday-Palooza with a rather low-key movie that’s available on HBO Max and something right up my alley because I can totally relate to it, 8-Bit Christmas.
Now, although this movie is available for HBO Max subscribers for a couple of weeks now, I haven’t really seen a lot of reviews for it. It seems to be that movie that’s flown under everyone’s radar. I’m not sure if a lot, if anyone, really has seen 8-Bit Christmas already. All the more reason to make this a SPOILER FREE review.
Anyway, 8-Bit Christmas is a film about a father named Jack Doyle regaling a story about how all he wanted for Christmas when he was a kid was a brand new Nintendo Entertainment System and how he eventually got one. It’s a very simple story but told in the vein of a flashback, making it highly probable that some of the so-called facts of his tale might be just embellishments or him just him not remembering things all that accurately.
Let’s go talk about the things they do get right. I do love how the movie sets up scenes that are both realistic and exaggerated at the same time. I can confirm that a lot of things that do happen in 8-Bit Christmas are based on real life because I’ve lived through some of these events and met some of those people! The one part that really stuck out for me was the story of the spoiled brat who gets whatever he wants but, since he has the best toys (or a brand new Nintendo), everyone sucked up to him. What I did find hilarious was how over-the-top everyone tries to get on his good side. It’s totally unrealistic but, if you’re a kid, I can see myself remembering how insane things might have looked like to me.
The cast for 8-Bit Christmas is pretty solid. The kid actors they got for the main roles perform in pitch perfect fashion. There’s nary a bad performance from any of them and they all have to get off their little quirks each of them have. They’re also not cookie cutter performances where one kid acts like everyone else. They all have distinct personas and stereotypes of the period and they get them across in a believable manner.
You also do get some recognizable stars like Neil Patrick Harris as an adult Jack Doyle and Steve Zahn as Jack’s father. I like Steve Zahn’s performance as the rather hard-nosed patriarch of the family who believes in hard work rather than wasting time sitting on your butt playing video games. Once again, it’s a realistic portrayal but highly exaggerated to comical effect. Of course, Neil Patrick Harris is perfect as the father telling the story to his daughter. You can definitely tell he has a love for ’80s nostalgia and the wonky way he’s retelling these events does match the way we think of our childhood. He’s not in the film much but he does make the most of the time he’s in it.
I was actually pretty wary about 8-Bit Christmas because the film had the potential to be nothing but pure nostalgia bait. What I mean is that it might overly rely on people’s love for the ’80s and not have any real substance. Thankfully, 8-Bit Christmas, while having a lot of nostalgic moments, does have a charming story to go along with it.
I think that’s also an appropriate word to describe 8-Bit Christmas: it’s charming. There’s no grand adventure to be told nor is there any real particular enemy to overcome. It’s just the story of a bunch of kids who want to get a Nintendo for Christmas. The things the kids have to do and put up with just to play the touted entertainment system and things do escalate to ridiculous situations that seem highly unlikely but still believable.
That being said, I will say a lot of the film’s charm does come from the nostalgic time period. I can’t exactly say how much I would enjoy 8-Bit Christmas if I didn’t kind of live through the story myself. I’m basically the target demographic but I do think people who didn’t live through this period of life will still find the film fun. They might not fully get it, though, but the characters and situations should carry it through for them.
I also can’t help but be somewhat miffed as some of the gaffs the film made about the thing the kids coveted: the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’m still rather irritated at how films and television, whenever they have to show someone playing on a video game controller, the people playing are just mashing the buttons in an uncontrolled, spastic manner. That’s just not how people play video games! Also, they feature the Power Glove and you see a kid use it but the television isn’t mounted with the necessary sensors for it to work. The most egregious mistake the film makes is creating a fictional game for a particular scene of competitive gameplay. They created this fighting game when there could’ve chosen other games like, say, Ring King. I mean, why didn’t they use that game, Karate Champ or the myriad of other two player games on the system? They didn’t need to put a fake game for the scene since they’re are so many competitive games on the NES at the time.
All-in-all, I will say I had a good time with 8-Bit Christmas. I do recommend people watch it, even if you don’t have nostalgic memories of the ’80s nor Nintendo’s 8-bit system. I do believe it’s charming enough to stand on its own. While it may not be the next holiday classic, it’s something someone who just likes feel good Christmas movies will ultimately enjoy. If its in theaters or you have HBO Max, I say gather your friends who grew up in the ’80s and let the good times roll.
Have you seen 8-Bit Christmas? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!