CLEVELAND — There’s a reason that there’s no movie called “Casablanca 2” or “It’s Still A Wonderful Life." Those are both timeless classics that Hollywood has, thus far, had the decency not to franchise, thank heavens.
No one ever gets mad when they make sequels to dumb movies because we’re not emotionally invested in the original. For example, they can make as many Fast and Furious sequels as they want because no one is going to be like: “Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift ruined the legacy of the original classic! This isn’t what Paul Walker would have wanted!”
But with movies like "A Christmas Story," it’s different. It’s personal. We all have a relationship with this movie, first and foremost, because it’s a highly-quotable, perfectly-crafted, modern day holiday classic. That's also because it’s been force-fed to us on cable television on a constant loop for the past 30 years or so. I’m pretty sure TNT’s Christmas Story marathon is still running from last month.
And of course, as Clevelanders we’re even more connected to it because this is where some of it was shot, and we do NOT shy away from that connection. There has yet to be a formal scientific study, but it’s safe to say that Cleveland leads the nation in sexy leg lamps displayed in front windows. The Christmas Story House museum in Tremont gets more than 80,000 visits per year. So yes, this movie is important to us.
So when word dropped yesterday that there is an upcoming sequel in the works, strong feelings were inevitable. When we asked our viewers on Twitter how they felt about it, the response was fairly consistent: Most people weren’t too stoked. And that’s understandable.
After all, a "Christmas Story" sequel actually already exists and….wow does it look bad. It’s a 2012 straight-to-DVD cheapy starring Daniel Stern with a dismal 3.6 rating on IMDB. And I have to believe that Daniel Stern must be the one who keeps voting to keep it that high because based on the trailer there’s no WAY it should be above a 2.5.
Fortunately, few people are aware of this movie and even fewer have seen it, but it’s a great illustration of where our apprehension comes from regarding sequels to the movies we love.
There are certain films that we would prefer to remain standalone and untainted, frozen in the amber of our memories. We want to remember the beloved characters as they were!
All of that said, I’m trying not to be a "Scrooge" about this and hoping for the best because this sequel does have some hopeful things going for it. For example, it’s being produced by HBO, and they really don’t make much bad stuff. They’ve lined up Peter Billingsley, the actor who played Ralphie in the original, to return for the sequel which will follow an adult version of the character in the 1970s who returns to the house on Cleveland Street to try and give his kids a magical Christmas like the one he had growing up.
Does this mean that we’ll get to see downtown Cleveland decked out in all of its 1970’s Holiday glory in the film? Hard to say but, probably not, because the production will actually be shooting in Hungary for some reason. And by “some reason,” I mean cheap labor and tax purposes. No word yet on if any of the production will actually take place here in town.
But in the event that they DO decide to shoot some of the film here, I’d like to take this opportunity to throw my hat in the ring for the role of the grown-up version of Ralphie’s bully nemesis Scut Farkus, to whom I’ve always borne a regrettable resemblance. Hear that HBO? I’m local, I’m affordable, I’m ginger, and I have this hat. It’s your move.
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