Sunday, December 25, 2011

Yuletide Obscurity: A Christmas Story II

It's always a lot like Summer in Florida.  Why am I doing a film called My Summer Story for Christmas Day?  Have I completely lost track of what day it is?  Given that I just said that it's Christmas Day, that's obviously not true.  I have a very simple reason for covering this film- it's the sequel to A Christmas Story.  If you have TBS- or some local equivalent- it's bound to be playing right now.  Bob Clark must have done something right to merit a 24/7 rotation on this special day of the year.  The film was released in the same year as I was born, so I have a connection to it.  Truth be told, however, I find it a bit overrated.  There's nothing wrong with it, mind you, but it's just so institutionalized that it's hard for most people to look at it objectively anymore.  This film- also known as It Runs in the Family- is much more obscure, despite it being made in 1994.  Does this film deserve the lack of attention that it gets or is it just waiting for someone like me- or someone with more readers- to come along and give it the attention it deserves?  To find out, read on...
The first thing to note is that this film does not feature much in the way of returning cast members.  That's understandable for the kids, since the movie is set mere months after the 1983 film.  Darren McGavin is sorely missed though...
Unlike the original film, this one is made up of four plots.  It fits into the 'stories of my life' theme of the source material- Written by the Narrator, BTW- but feels kind of like a cheat here.  The stories are as follows...
'Old Man' is having a feud with his neighbors, who are a bunch of country 'bumpkins.'  How they own a house in this otherwise normal-looking neighborhood is never addressed.  This plot just kind of peters out in the end...
The Mother's story involves an old marketing strategy in which housewives would go to a theater and get free dishware, in exchange for patronage.  The problem- they keep getting gravy boats and nothing else.  This too, just kind of peters out in the end...
As far as our lead Ralphie goes, his plot-line involves finding a Top to do battle with the new Head Bully, the former being demoted...apparently.  It all comes to a head with a battle...that's a draw.  0 for 3, movie!
In the final story, Ralphie and The Old Man going out fishing.  The first time proves to amount to nothing, but the second time yields a big haul.  More importantly, Ralphie gets treated like a man by his dad.  Kudos for not shooting your eye out, kid!  The End.
I'd stick with Christmas, Ralphie!  The plot of this movie is, well, four disparate plots.  How hard is it to write a single, all-encompassing plot?  Instead, this is set up like a lazy TV show and features a bunch of stories just tied together by the thread of the characters being related.  That's not to say that this is a bad set-up for a film in general.  However, when your film is called My Summer Story, I expect a more singular focus!  The other big problem is that nearly all of these stories end on an anti-climax.  If one of them did and the others didn't, it might stand out.  Since it's impossible to not compare this to the original 1983 film, let me do just that.  That film featured a lovably-grumpy dad, kind mother and a pair of nice kids.  This film's dad is practically a parody, since the new actor injects none of the realism that McGavin did.  The mother is nice enough, but the kids are a bit less friendly than in the last one.  Ralphie is a bit rude to some adults and only out to defeat a bully because...well, he has to do something, I guess.  He actively seeks the bully out and continues to spend money on tops.  There are at least a dozen other kids there- including his two friends- who simply watch the matches and don't get involved, so why does he seek out the conflict?  I should close this up by mentioning that the Narrator really, really overdoes it here IMO.  You're whimsical- we get it!  While I'm not a major fanboy for A Christmas Story, it's obviously struck a chord with people in a way that this film has not.  That's not going to change today either.
Up next, I wrap up the year with a look at some films which make up the only parts of a series I have yet to cover.  First up, the original Cyborg, which is like Mad Max, but with a dash of Christian imagery just for kicks!  Stay tuned...

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