“The year was 1987, or was it ’88?” Grownup Jake Doyle (Neil Patrick Harris) begins, when all he wanted for Christmas was a Nintendo. And when I say Nintendo, I’m not talking about your everyday DS Lite. We’re going old school, y’all.
“Nintendo,” Doyle narrates to his daughter, “[was] a maze of rubber wiring and electronic intelligence so advanced it was deemed not a video game but an 8-bit entertainment system.”
In 8-Bit Christmas, viewers throwback to the world of the 1980s, where kids had to face off against giant bullies during recess, teachers taught the dewey decimal system in class, and no one ever got off school for snow days.
In those days, everyone was at the mercy of neighborhood rich kid,Timmy Keane (Chandler Dean), who had the ultimate basement and the latest video games, but only allowed 10 lucky chosen kids inside every day.
Every kid dreamed of having their own Nintendo and as fifth graders, Doyle (Winslow Fegley) and his ragtag neighborhood buddies were no different.
Knowing his parents (June Diane Raphael and Steve Zahn) will not buy him one for Christmas, Doyle and his pals try every which way possible to get a Nintendo, including selling Christmas wreaths and a very in depth plot featuring walkie talkies, extended periods of projectile vomit, and a rare copy of a Billy Ripken baseball card mistakenly printed with a very inappropriate four-letter word.
While in many ways it reflects A Christmas Story, 8-Bit Christmas sets itself apart with its very clear positioning in the 1980s. The film offers the perfect amount of charm for the children, wit for the teens, and sentimentality for the adults.
8-Bit Christmas has quite a bit of dry humor and 1980s sarcasm, rather than laugh out loud kind of humor, but turn it on while you decorate the Christmas tree and I promise, it’ll be great.
The film has received a 6.7/10 on IMDB and an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. A few potential warnings is that the movie does depict your classic bullying scenes with king of the mountain and a boy being made fun of for wearing girls shoes, as well as mild language (though nothing explicit or crude).
Overall, I would rate this movie 8.5/10. 8-Bit Christmas was wholesome, nostalgic, and a great family-friendly movie for the folks back home to enjoy. The film is available exclusively on HBO Max.