Adapted from Words Like That S1 Ep. 5: “Christmas Movie Special + End of Year Story Updates," originally released December 19, 2023.
The final film on our Christmas recommendation went largely unnoticed when it was released in 2021. An HBO Max original, 8-Bit Christmas initially looked like one of those Christmas films that could serve as a passable, one-time Christmas watch--or absolutely terrible. Shockingly, however, it surpassed the highest of my low expectations to become an immediate addition to our annual Christmas watchlist.
Based on the novel by Kevin Jakubowski, 8-Bit Christmas is essentially A Christmas Story for the ‘80s generation, so, obviously, instead of a Red Ryder BB gun, the film's MacGuffin is an original Nintendo Entertainment System. And that’s pretty much the gist of the movie.
While that might not sound like much, the script is exceptionally well written, hitting all the beats of A Christmas Story while avoiding coming off as a cheap knock-off. Steve Zahn anchors the picture as the dad, much like Darren McGavin before him. Meanwhile, Neil Patrick Harris brings some gravitas as the adult version of the main character who is recounting the primary events of the movie to his daughter in 2021.
I don’t think it’s quite as eccentric or endearing enough to become an all-time Christmas favorite like A Christmas Story, but, like the best Christmas movies of its ilk, it provides some laughs, tugs at the heart strings, and ultimately ends on a happy note.
There’s a little language and some crude humor, but if you use a filtering service like ClearPlay (who, unfortunately, is not sponsoring this content), it doesn’t take much to make 8-Bit Christmas perfect for family viewing.
If you grew up in the ’80s, you’ll probably love the period setting and enjoy the aesthetic and cultural references, particularly if you were into video games. 8/10.
Cole Powell is an award-winning singer/songwriter and Z-list YouTuber. Armed with degrees in computer technology and liberal arts and sciences, Powell seeks to pontificate his pitiful opinions to the masses through any means the internet allows.