PG, but a cautionary PG. This is the problem with no live-action movies ever having the hope of being G-rated. All PG movies are just movies aimed at kids, regardless of maturity level. There's some questionable content, such as excessive vomiting on camera and the death of an animal. My three-year-old genuinely thinks that this is a movie about a dead dog. Regardless, PG.
DIRECTOR: Michael Dowse
When you move, your movie watching time goes in the toilet. I used to watch a movie a day. I had a small, but devoted following. Now I have 35 people checking my page. But because I don't update, there's nothing to really check. Well, thank you, loyal 35. I'm sorry that I'm not posting as much content, but the house has got to get up to snuff.
I showed my kids the trailer to this movie and they weren't excited. Boy, I showed them. Before I start rambling about the role of fathers and how I'm a sucker for a dead dad movie, let's establish that 8-Bit Christmas is pretty good. It's a pretty good feeling knowing that I'm about to turn 40. Every market wants my nostalgia money and, boy-oh-boy, they're going to get it. It doesn't hurt that Stranger Things made the '80s appealing to many audiences. It's odd, knowing that the reason that this movie exists is because a studio knows that there's a clamoring for '80s nostalgia. I always think of the '80s as not that long ago, which is a common thing. But it's like that '60s nostalgia that was going around when I was growing up. It's just there and someone is going to try to make money off of it. But I'm glad that there are these projects that are actually pretty good. Now, I might be alone in my love for this film. I was the only person who liked Home Sweet Home Alone, so my free pass that comes to nostalgia and Christmas may be tainting my opinion of things.
Probably my biggest takeaway from 8-Bit Christmas is that it actively tries to undo the sins of The Wizard. For those not in the know and refuse to click the link, The Wizard was a family film from the '80s that actively tried selling Nintendo products. It wasn't just product placement. It was a collaboration with a company to make their products seem sexier. And to a certain degree, it worked. It was aimed at kids my age to want this magical technology. Video games were and will probably always be cool. But this is a time before the Internet was a home use thing. Everything was about word of mouth. Nintendo needed eyes on products and the vibe that they weren't selling something, despite the fact that they absolutely were selling the notion of a Power Glove. 8-Bit Christmas is almost a commentary on what that commercialism did to us as kids in the '80s. Now, the easy route would have been a direct condemnation on Nintendo for being so manipulative of emotions. The movie is...not that.
The movie is and tries to be a celebration of what it meant to be a kid in the '80s and how that was such a pivotal moment in nerd culture. Never is the word "nerd" thrown around. It was a time period where kids were rock stars for having a coveted video game system. In terms of genre, it's ripe for Bildungsroman, the coming-of-age story. Jake's flashback begins right at the beginning of his adolescence. He's in that liminal state between being a child and being his own man. It's confusing because he still has to wear the boots that his parents gave him. He depends on them for everything in his life. But he relates more to kids his own age. There's this disconnect that is pervasive through the character. Dowse actively tricks us with this story, presenting the parents and adults as people almost outside the world of Jake and his friends. Because Jake is so focused on getting that Nintendo to establish himself as a person who isn't marginalized in high school, he loses focus on the fact that his parents as people.
Dowse presents his parents as archetypes. Mom and Dad just don't get video games because they're so out of touch. Like Jake, we get wrapped up in the commercialism of the holiday. Much like A Christmas Story, the movie becomes about the Macguffin. But the thing that we learn is that the object itself, while absolutely a cool thing that we still kind of celebrate today, covers up the importance of the things in life that are universal. The misdirection that the treehouse provides is so fundamentally key to the central theme of the story. Dowse teases these foibles with Dad that seem like quirks. But when that treehouse is revealed, the object becomes a symbol of something far greater than a Nintendo. The Nintendo, as a gift, works as an ending. I think there's a way to stick the landing with the Nintendo. But that makes it about the parents making that emotional leap. The reveal of the treehouse instead of the Nintendo makes the character change on of Jake. Because Dad doesn't change to get to that spot. It's the acknowledgement that Jake is the one who is changing throughout the piece. Dad has always been this complex person. It just took something physical to help Jake see it.
Yeah, I got emotional. Because the movie never teases the notion of vulnerability until it's there. Seriously, there's a lot of screen time devoted to a kid vomiting Spaghetti-Os all over the street. But there's nothing that sets up a dead father story. And the fact that adult Jake decides to devote this time to a story that really becomes about Dad is important. Because it is in that story that Annie learns about her Dad. Annie starts off the film criticizing adult Jake and, by proxy, Jake's parents. In this moment, Jake teaches Annie that adults are people too. They aren't always right, but they often have the best intentions. Throughout the film, there are examples of adults who come across as absolutely absurd when it comes to protesting. But no on in the movie isn't loving. Well, except the dad of the bully. That guy was on another level. But we get that, despite having generational gaps, these are family members who absolutely love each other. Do I wish that Dad could get on board Jake's love of video games? Sure. But he's also trying and that's what made the movie so important.
But I also have to stress that the movie is just plain funny. It's a really funny movie. It's really funny and a little rebellious. It's got this fun edge to the movie that is super enjoyable. It's a good Christmas movie. They don't need to put on the bumper that it was made by the studio of Elf. No. It's just a good movie. Done.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.