Neil Patrick Harris is our narrator in a journey through his journey to acquire a Nintendo Entertainment System, NES, on Christmas. This HBO Max original is heavily touted as coming from the same studio at Elf and may turn out to be just as classic. The best Christmas movies play on nostalgia and this one dives headfirst into the deep end. The NES picked up where Atari left off and accelerated the prevalence of video games in the home. It was the first system I spent hours playing and is fondly remembered by the millennial generation. Focusing the film around this peak point of nostalgia for an entire generation is a masterful stroke as is having NPH’s recognizable voice throughout the film.
The child actor cast is wonderful and has fantastic chemistry as friends. A set of fraternal twins with a late December birthday, a pathological liar, the eraser eater, the rich kid, and the held back bully are generic yet familiar and work in concert to orchestrate nostalgia. It might be too early for some to call this a holiday classic, but I think it will become one. It is just too relatable for so many people.
The takeaway message of the film is about valuing family over a gift, as has been done before, but a final scene reveal, hammers the messaging home effectively. It hooked me more than I thought the film deserved to at the end, but it had worked hard to lower my emotional shield. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that our parents do for us when we are children, and it takes us all far too long to appreciate it. Anchoring that around Christmas is hitting the easy button, but with how this film delivers I will accept it with open arms.