A Christmas Story Live
December 4, 2018
(The Channel Awesome logo and the title sequence are shown)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it-
(Suddenly, he abruptly gets up from his seat and the room goes black)
NC: I summon thee, Christmas!
(He holds up a Christmas sword, the handle of which is done up in candy cane style. A blast of energy appears from the tip of the sword. It charges up, and then NC's clothes are given a Christmas makeover: mostly blue with white snowflakes, reindeer and zigzags on them)
NC: (dramatically) Ho, ho, ho! (sits back down and speaks normally) There! I did a nice little Christmas intro and nobody got hurt, no worlds blew up or anything. Everything is good. (Suddenly, he hears the sound of screaming) I don't hear that. (He then hears the sound of explosions) I don't hear that either. Whatever it is, I'm sure it had nothing to do with my Christmas intro. (The sound of a T-Rex roaring is heard next) How is that even possible?! Anyway, let's talk about live shows.
(We see some pictures from live shows as his explanation goes on, including one from Hairspray Live)
NC (vo): Since pretty much the dawn of television live shows have been a very regular thing. But they’ve had a bit of an explosion these past five years. Shows like The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood, Peter Pan with Christopher Walken and The Wiz with Queen Latifah have been raking in big numbers for NBC. Clearly because they were good, right?
(We see a scene from Peter Pan Live where Walken is drinking with his crew)
Captain Hook (Walken): Oh, yeah.
(The rest of the scene is them laughing and clearing their throats, which leaves NC in an awkward position to comment on this)
NC: Awkward kitsch is a kind of good.
NC (vo): Not wanting to be left out of the musical equivalent of "Dogs Playing Poker", Fox decided to throw their head into the ring with Grease Live! with Vanessa Hudgens and the Rocky Horror Picture Show with Laverne Cox. The specials apparently did well enough to warrant what Fox was hoping to be their crowning achievement of hokeyness.
NC: Because Lord knows (The poster for Christmas Story 2 appears) we haven't made it hokey enough already, A Christmas Story.
(The title for A Christmas Story Live is shown, followed by its clips. The song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" plays in the background)
NC (vo): In America's need to destroy this movie, A Christmas Story Live does its best to turn that small-town innocent family classic with a hint of an edge into a tacky singing Hallmark card covered in falling glitter with an unfunny joke inside. But where a card only gives you a second of annoyance, this one delivers 2 hours and 15 minutes of cyanide fruitcake!
NC: And that's without commercials. With commercials, it's three goddamn hours!
NC (vo): This special is like a forgettable ugly sweater that someone paid millions of dollars to glamour up, creating an even more forgettable ugly sweater. It's the kind of special that rips out what was charming and fresh from the original and replaces it with what Google Translate would interpret as charming and fresh. It's a miserable experience from beginning to end, so let's look it over from beginning to end.
NC: This is why Christmas can't have nice things. Let's take a look at Christmas Story Live.
(The movie jumps right into a musical number for the opening credits. The opening song is called "Count on Christmas" by Bebe Rexha, who sings in the foreground while some people are dancing behind her)
Bebe Rexha: (singing) You're bundled up, got a blizzard coming on the way...
NC: (confused) Um, I'll try this again. Let's take a look at Christmas Story Live.
(Back to the same song, where the sound mixing took a terrible turn, as you'll have problems understand some of the lyrics, which are overshadowed by the music)
Bebe Rexha: (singing) Coming back home to the old address...
NC (vo): Okay, my bad, I seem to have put on Old Navy Presents: A Camp Rock Christmas. (leans his head into the right direction) What's that? Ah. The fictional person I'm pretending is off-camera to make this joke work is telling this is, in fact, A Christmas Story.
(Long beat as he nods, before we cut back to the musical number)
NC (vo): Don't know how I didn't recognize that! I mean, Christ, literally the first scene is 100% wrong. It took effort to be this wrong!
NC: It's like starting off a Christmas classic everybody knows like this!
(Cut to a scene from Full Metal Jacket)
Prostitute: (to Joker and Rafterman) Me so horny. Me so horny.
(Suddenly the scene pauses and the intro from It's a Wonderful Life starts playing over the scene)
NC: Well, now I feel obligated to say this: (The scene appears again) Don't do that, Fox! We actually know you would now!
(Back to the song we see...multiple women dancing in the pink bunny pajamas in the background)
NC (vo): So after trying to make Ralphie's bunny pajama somehow hot...
NC: (rubs his right temple) We bizarrely have enough sexy rabbits, thank you.
(As he says that, six picture of bunnies, who were made way too attractive both figuratively and literally, are shown. Clockwise: Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Carrot from One Piece, Lola from Space Jam, Babs Bunny in a dress from Tiny Toons, a Playboy bunny and Judy Hopps from Zootopia. Back to the special, we're shown people preparing and shopping for Christmas, children playing in the snow, etc.)
NC (vo): Something kind of resembling a Christmas story finally starts, and at first, I will admit: it is impressive to think this is all done live. The shots, the visuals, the movement, the timing; this would all be difficult to do on its own, taking out that you have to get it done on the first take.
(The grown-up Ralphie, aka the onscreen narrator, is played by Matthew Broderick)
NC (vo): But sadly, it's narrated by an actor who's known for giving a performance like it's his first take, Matthew "He was good in that one thing!" Broderick. Broderick's entire performance is the most constant reminder that this is live, because he's so incredibly awkward that, you'd swear, rather than creating a motion first and racing against the clock second, he's racing against the clock first and creating a motion never.
Narrator: (various clips) I had renewed reason for optimism. Santa was on the case. / I'd heard a lot of "no" in the past few weeks, no less than Santa himself. / Lake Michigan was so polluted, you could run halfway to Milwaukee before you sank to the bottom. / Here it is, here it is. The house on Cleveland Street. / Ah, Higbees. The high-water mark of the pre-Christmas season.
NC (vo): Everything he says is like (shot of...) the flower shop scene from The Room. Any human feeling accidentally entering the equation is clearly an indirect by-product!
Narrator: For months, I'd been thinking of the Red Ryder and nothing else. Now here it was, the real thing.
NC: (imitating Dr. Tatopolous from Godzilla (1998)) That's a lot of shit.
(We're reentroduced to the Parker family at their house)
NC (vo): Maya Rudolph plays Ralphie's mom, and Ralphie is played by Andy Walken. No relation to Christopher Walken that I know of, yet somehow he still inherited every one of his scary faces.
Ralphie: (singing and being very expressive with his facial movements) Don't seem desperate, or you're done!
NC: Okay. Before I go too harsh on this kid...he is a kid, and he's still learning. And to his credit, he's been in a lot of other stuff.
(The posters for the Netflix movie The Most Hated Woman in America and the ABC show The Kids Are Alright)
NC (vo): Movies, a steady gig on a TV show...
NC: I legitimately hope his talent grows and he has a nice long career. (Beat) But when you put that kid...
NC (vo): ...in eye-warping glasses with frames so black, even Tim Burton would say, "Too dark", on a live show where you can't always get the best lighting, flattering camera angles, and you're encouraged to come across big and silly...
NC: Unchecked...that kid can be terrifying.
NC (vo): Look at the way the shadow hits his eyes. He looks like Harry Potter turning into Gollum!
NC: Did you know the same director of A Christmas Story also directed (poster of...) Black Christmas? You would, if you put...
NC (vo): ...these shots of that kid in both of them!
NC: Okay. Well, let's hope his singing can balance things out.
Ralphie: (singing as Mr. Parker, aka the Old Man, returns home) And then there's mother, she can be tough. (The voice cracks there) I'll drop a couple hints...
NC: (stunned, with a frozen nervous smile) He's really good in The Kids are Alright.
NC (vo): Anyway, he's just a little boy. What's Broderick's excuse?
(In Raphie's imagine spot of getting the Red Ryder BB Gun (the screen is cropped to the 2.35:1 aspect ratio), the narrator is dressed in a cowboy attire)
Narrator: That's right, boys. Take it from me, me! If you want to keep your homestead free of villains, I give you old blue!
NC: (as the narrator) One of these days, the Blue Fairy will come and make me a real actor.
NC (vo): There's nothing wrong with your monitor, by the way. The aspect ratio keeps changing. I'm assuming this is whenever there's a fantasy Ralphie is having... (Cut back to a clip with Bebe Rexia and the dancers in bunny costumes) ...which means there must have been some confusing thoughts he was going through when these women came out in these PJs.
Ralphie: (finishing the song by looking at the camera, which moves towards him) ...Daaaaaaaay...!
(NC screams at this sudden jump scare)
NC: Okay, look, kid, I really hope one day, you can look back and be like, "Remember Christmas Story Live? Wasn't that funny how much that didn't work and I didn't belong there? But now, I'm a huge star, making millions and everybody loves me! Ha-ha! I can look back and laugh now! It's funny! Ha-ha-ha!" But for right now...AAAAAHHHH!!!
(This bit is repeated. The special briefly stops, as we're shown the crew of Fire Station 101 in San Pedro standing in front of the church as a tribute to them for being the first to react to the wildfires in California)
NC (vo): The special is interrupted by a nice recognition of the first responders to last year's California wildfires.
Andy Walken: (offscreen) Please join us in honoring the first responders who put their lives on the line to serve and protect us all.
NC: But I'll admit, it's a little muddied, where immediately after, instead of promoting a wildfire charity you can give to...
(A pop-up message appears above, which states that upon tweeting "#AChristmasStoryLive", the person will receive a bell emoji)
NC (vo): ...it instead pushes a special Twitter emoji if you tweet their hashtag.
NC: (waves off) Oh, heck with those wildfires. (takes out a phone and eagerly types on it) I want that emoji!
(Much to NC's horror, it's Ralphie's face from the previous song number, and he screams)
NC: I deserved that.
(Ralphie and his younger brother Randy (Tyler Wladis) are running down the stairs into the kitchen)
NC (vo): If you've seen the original a lot this'll seem familiar. Ralphie drops hints that he wants a BB Gun, the father fights with the furnace, (The Old Man enters the kitchen with ashes on his left cheek) the furnace (pause) slaps him, I guess, and legitimately good improv overshadows this prop malfunction.
(the Old Man takes a seat at the breakfast table to check his mail, as the clock abruptly falls down from the door)
The Old Man (Chris Diamantopoulos) Let me look at the bills. The bills, the bills, the bills, the bills. (sees the fallen clock) Would you get that, honey, please? (stands up and gets the clock himself) Oh, what is this here? Yeah, yeah, all we've got are bills.
NC: My God, that was the only part of the musical that actually felt genuine.
NC (vo): It felt real and not forcibly overblown. Much like the original.
NC: So, the only part of A Christmas Story Live that actually felt like A Christmas Story was literally by accident.
NC (vo): There's a profound zen riddle in there somewhere, but it's distracted by another shitty song number. This one's about crosswords.
NC: (slams his fist on the table) Of course, that's what was missing from the original.
(As the Old Man prepares letter, the kitchen changes into a game show about crosswords with the narrator as the host)
Announcer: Back to your favorite quiz show "Are You a Genius!"
NC (vo): (Bars are edited in on top and bottom of the scene) And where's the bars on this one? It was in all of the other fantasies, why isn't it in this one? Are we supposed to assume this isn't a fantasy and there is actually a game show going on in his kitchen?
NC (vo): Nah, about as much as Broderick's line delivery here isn't the loudest cry for help this musical can must.
Host: With Rin, so it’s easy to pretend that everything's fine.
NC: (as Broderick) Production denial never felt so benign.
Host: Tinkerbell's pal, forever a boy, Peter?
The Old Man: Peter. Yeah, I've got three letters?
The Old Man: Yeah, Peter Piper-picked-a-peck-of-pickled-peppers. (As he fails this simple question, his wife in the audience gets handed a pan as a visual help) Peter Ilya Tchaikovsky. That's not gonna fit...
NC: (rests his head on his hand) Yeah, he's definitely gonna win with that encyclopedia knowledge.
(We then cut to the playground, where the bullies Scut Farkus (Sascha Carlson) and Grover Dill (Elie Samouhi) are entering the playground through an opening in the fence, followed by the narrator)
NC (vo): Here's the intro to the bullies and, again, listen to the original narrator, the author of the book, talk about these people as if they were real, compared to a professional world-famous actor who does this for a living.
(Cut to the introduction scene from the original movie with the narrator giving it his all)
Narrator: Scut Farkus, what a rotten name. Staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes. So help me, God, yellow eyes.
(Back to the musical, where the narrator still sounds like a perfectionist of monotone line deliveries)
Narrator: Scut Farkus, even his name sounded mean and dirty, and Farkus had yellow eyes. I swear he did.
NC: But, to be fair, Broderick paid a lot of money to do this and the author only did it because he wanted to.
(The kids are doing the next song When You're a Wimp while running in circles with Randy in the middle)
Kids (singing): When you're a wimp. When you're a wimp.
NC (vo): We get a song about how rotten the bullies are, and the more I watch the more I realize the songs themselves actually aren't that bad for what they are. They have good melodies and clever lyrics, but they belong in a big over the top production, which is not what Christmas Story was ever meant to be. (Scenes from the original movie play) They were little scenes that felt real because they were little. It's like the brother crying in the kitchen. That's so sweet and feels so real, because it's allowed to be a smaller moment. (Back to the musical) I feel like here they did that scene they'd just be like...
NC: (singing a parody of Under the Sea) Under the sink. Under the siiink.
(We then cut into Ralphie's classroom with their teacher Miss Shields teaching them)
NC (vo): But they make up for that with comic gold like the teacher, played by Jane Krakowski, being obsessive-compulsive.
Ms. Shields: (corrects the angle of her book to be identical to that of the table) Our first activity of the day will be... (corrects the position of her quill so that the feather looks in her direction)
NC: What you saw adds nothing to anything and should've been left put. Our apologies.
Narrator: If I could get Ms. Shields to sympathize with my plight, she might phone my mother and implore her to get me that gun.
NC: (concerned, shakes his head) That doesn't sound cryptic at all!
NC (vo): (as Ralphie) Those assholes that own me that drug money will pay! Nobody messes with Gangster Ralphie! (deeper impression) Nobody!
(The next music number is Ralphie to the Rescue, which of course plays in a Wild West setting to fit with the motive of getting that BB gun. Ms. Shields is working for a bank, the other students are civilians and Ralphie is the sheriff, protecting them against bank robbers)
Ralphie: (singing) Ralphie to the rescue, uh-oh-oh.
NC (vo): He has another fantasy about saving people with his BB gun. Again, not a bad number on its own, but (shows the fantasy from the original with a caption showing the time it needed to play, before going back to the musical with a caption showing it's time) in the original it's short and sweet, only 2 minutes. In this version it's six. Six Minutes of this. It's so long, boring and pointless I almost pray there'd be a screw-up to make things more interesting.
Ralphie: But I think that everyone should have a... (you hear the sound of a stagehand giving directions on another set in the background, briefly distracting Andy Walken) Red Ryder BB gun...
NC: (as Ralphie) Oh, sorry, the mics in my fantasy forgot to turn off.
NC (vo): We then follow that fantasy with... (Ms. Shields is writing on the table, it's shot like one of Ralphie's fantasies) another fantasy.
NC: Yeah, remember how they were spaced out in the original? Stupid.
(Now we're back at Ralphie's place, where his mother starts singing What a Mother Does)
NC (vo): As now the mother gets a song about being a mother. And boy, does she do a great impersonation of Russell Crowe from Les Mis.
(And we are now treated to the mother's singing, which is completely off key)
Mother: (singing) The floors have been scrubbed like a woman possessed / And it's steady and stable...
NC: (surprised and shocked by how bad it is) Oh, wow.
Mother: (still singing) And piles of paper appearing right out of thin air. Because that's what a mother does.
NC (vo): I didn't know you could go through two puberties, or that your voice could crack three times while it happens.
Mother: (still singing) The very best Christmas there ever was. (NC shudders and clinges his fists together to stay calm) That's what (NC wants to say something and raisies his finger...) a mother (... but goes back to his original pose) does.
NC: Excuse me for a minute, I need to go back where I was talking about Ralphie's singing.
(He stands up and leaves his place to the left side. We cut back in time to the moment where he criticized Ralphie's singing)
NC (past): He's really good in The Kids are Alright.
(Suddenly the NC from the present pops in, confusing NC of the past)
NC (present): But he does sing better than Maya Rudolph.
NC (past): I'm assuming that'll make sense later.
(Cut to commercials, as NC of the past is still confused about what happened)