8-Bit Christmas on HBO Max, a Consistently Funny Barrage of ‘80s Nostalgia

HBO Max’s 8 bit Christmas can fill your quota of ’80s nostalgia needs at least until the next season of Strange things bury us in [plumbs the depths of memory] Lotto hightops and Sizzlean. Screenwriter Kevin Jakubowski adapts his own novel about a middle-aged father and dizzying memories of his childhood vacation, when he desperately wanted a Nintendo gaming system and would do anything. It’s possible to get it, almost but not entirely by reason. Now that we’ve sketched out the film’s concept, we can get to the question here: Will it be taken seriously or will we be distracted by all the same things? ?


Gist: Jake Doyle (Neil Patrick Harris) is in Life Lesson Mode. His daughter, probably should be named Ennui, really really really really really really really really really wants her own smartphone, really really, and he will don’t let her have one. In fact, it reminded him of a time, “in 1987 or 1988,” when he was 11 years old and wanted a lot of Nintendo, and his parents said nein, nyet, nay, nuh-uh . He smears the years as he reminisces, which helps the film remove inaccuracies about the Cabbage Doll fight and the f-faced baseball card. DO YOU remember things from 30 years ago with great accuracy? I bet you an Adam Bomb Garbage Pail Kid card, you don’t have.

Anyway, flashback: 11-year-old Jake (Winslow Fegley) lives in the slums of Chicago with his coupon-cutting mother (June Diane Raphael), his goofy goofy dad (Steve Zahn) and his younger brother (Steve Zahn). girl Annie (Sophia Reid-Gantzert), a serial starter who suffers from cravings for Cabbage Patch. It’s December and Christmas looms like inevitable death. Jake and his collection of friends all aspire to have the almighty Nintendo, but the only kid who has one is the son of a real rich dad, and he rules the lower classes rather, allowing only a select few to enter his machine. Luxurious game room and watch him play. It’s miserable.

Getting the game box on your own is like going to the Moon yourself with a handful of cannons and some tubes of tissues. Jake caught a glimpse of someone in the mall during his family’s annual shopping excursion, traveling in a boxy minivan with no seat belts on. His best bet is to win by selling the most crappo Christmas wreaths for a scouting fundraiser, which puts him in direct competition with his friends. Many things stand in his way: “Video games make you fat,” says Jake’s dad. His mother made him wear girls’ boots. Protests about video game violence. School bullying in the case of his-in-his-inch pituitary gland. Will Jake get his goddamn brain-eating chip and wire box under the tree, or find out the true meaning of Christmas, or what?

What movies will remind you of?: Classicalists are bound to call out 8 bit Christmas for its Harris/How I meet your Mother voiceover-retrospective textures. But those of us who are even more discerning than some of the classics — those of us who watched Harris play Doogie Howser in real time — know it’s just that. Christmas story for Gen-X nostalgia, with Electric Gloves and Pepper Pie instead of the red Ryder BB Gun and Ovaltine.

Performances worth watching: Like he did in the movie about the underrated, optimistic kid Timmy Failure: The mistake was made, Fegley is easy to carry 8 bit Christmas, navigating childhood disappointments and triumphs was epic/now miniscule with a substantial comedic twist.

Memorable dialogue: Adult Jake laments why he never had snow days as a child: “Maybe 20 days below the low with a Soviet attack on the way, and we still go to school. “

Gender and Skin: Not available. This movie is rated PG because of the unfortunate Power Glove failure scenes.

Our Take: 8 bit Christmas would probably deflate like a balloon with a bullet hole if it weren’t for the endless stream of ’80s references, but that doesn’t mean it’s mindless or unhappy. It is usually an act of shame by Christmas story, it makes no sense: The eccentric mother, the annoying younger brother, the bully, the slightly forbidden object of desire, etc. But like the holiday movie about the father, it also has a harmonious tone and tempo. , good acting, emotional without being too exaggerated. and always funny. But it’s not as fun Christmas story – there are a few things.

The main difference is Jake’s father figure, whom Zahn finds a blend of the warmth and discipline of a wonderfully disciplined father with Fegley’s amused exasperation. They’re surrounded by supportive players who know how to revolve around lighthearted family comedy characters and modestly humorous lines, even if it’s the inherently dull Midwestern mom. by Raphael or the kids playing Jake’s taciturn schoolmates. (Remarkable, Alvin and the Chipmunks Franchise expert David Cross shows up to deliver some big laughs, stealing a few scenes as some sort of shady handling of a black market Cabbage Doll from the trunk of his Town van.)

All of this is the foundation material, the moist cake beneath a few inches of faded nostalgia: Dewey Decimal Jokes, Trapper Keepers jokes, crooked orthodontists jokes, see KangaROOS sneakers and too many era-specific drops of needles (though Ronnie James Dio’s use of Black Sabbath over worn-out Ozzy tracks reveals a remarkable degree of aesthetic and restraint. , he said, pointlessly flaunting his heavy metal track). There are moments where I worry that the film might just be transparent for Nintendo Corp., but the scenes in which it brings back the voice of the HAL-9000 game box and its realistic depiction of Power Glove as a junk accessory with almost no function, showing at least a modicum of commitment to the truth to commerce. 8 bit Christmas no. of course Witch, I’m happy to report.

Our call: I doubt 8 bit Christmas It’s going to be a holiday classic – too much dull nostalgia – but it’s funny and light, not too heavy and never too dull. INSTRUCTIONS IT.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at

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