BY KYLE LESNAK
8-Bit Christmas, directed by Michael Dowse, is a comedy Christmas film released on Nov 24, 2021, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Steve Zahn. The movie was released exclusively on HBO Max.
Jake Doyle shows his daughter, Annie Doyle, his old Nintendo entertainment system after she keeps annoying him about getting a phone. Jake then tells her the story of how he got his NES when he was 10 years old. With Jake’s handyman father, multitasking mother, and snitching little sister, he attempts multiple times to convince them to get him the Nintendo for Christmas but with no luck. After the one person in his neighborhood with an NES, the rich kid Timmy Keane, got his taken away after an accident involving his dog, Jake starts thinking of any other way to get his hands on the console. One of Jake’s “friends,” Jeff Farmer, tells him and his friends about a wreath-selling competition with the first place prize being a Nintendo console. With this goal in mind, Jake and his friends are now all in a race to see who will get their hands on the Nintendo first.
I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected. Going into it I was expecting the usual campy Christmas film about how it’s not about the presents, it’s about family, and that’s exactly what it is. It takes a lot of tropes from a bunch of other Christmas movies, which does make it feel like a weird mashup of all these different films. But it never really drew me away from the movie. Maybe it’s how well it embraces the fact that it’s a Christmas movie about some kid who wants an NES. The 80s aesthetic feels accurate. Whether it’s set pieces or just the way people act, it never breaks that immersion.
The story works well because of the back and forth between the past and present. Some things might feel weird and out of place, like a talking NES. But in the context that this is being told to a kid, it doesn’t seem strange to try and make it feel more interesting than it actually was. But as much as I think the story works, some plot points never feel very fleshed out, even feeling like they just forgot they existed.
This film felt very simple and ended up being just that. The movie didn’t surprise me very much. Won’t deny that a dog getting crushed by a TV in the first 20 minutes wasn’t something I expected from this Christmas movie. Though it stumbled through a lot of its story, the ending at least gave me that nice feeling a lot of Christmas films give off around the holidays. It could be better, but you can say that about a lot of things. If you’ve been begging for a Christmas flick where a bunch of people slip on ice while trying to get an NES, well then all I can say is “Merry Christmas”.