8 Bit Christmas parents guide

8 Bit Christmas Parent Guide

The nostalgia is geared at adults but the writing is directed at kids and there's no middle ground.

Overall B-

In Theaters and HBO Max: It's the 1980s and Jake desperately wants one thing for Christmas - a Nintendo Entertainment System. Facing firm parental opposition to video games, Jake's going to have to get creative.

Release date November 24, 2021

Violence B
Sexual Content B
Profanity A-
Substance Use B

Why is 8 Bit Christmas rated PG? The MPAA rated 8 Bit Christmas PG for rude humor and some mild violence, language and suggestive references

Run Time: 97 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Jake Doyle (Neil Patrick Harris) has been firmly holding off his daughter Annie’s (Sophie Reid-Gantzert) requests for a smartphone, but her persistence is starting to wear on him. At his parents’ home for Christmas, he decides to tell her about his own unfulfilled childhood wish – the (literally) game-changing Nintendo Entertainment System. Jake (played in his youth by Winslow Fegley) is desperate for the console, but his parents are markedly less keen on the idea. And with anti-video game fervor gripping the Chicago suburb in which he lives, it seems impossible that he’ll get a coveted gaming system. Not one to give up easily, Jake sets out on a series of schemes, with the help of his friends Mikey (Che Tafari), Jeff (Max Malas), Evan (Santino Barnard), and Tammy (Brielle Rankins). With Christmas closing in, they’ll have to think fast if they want a chance at any 8-bit fun this season.

8 Bit Christmas is one of those films that seems to be in search of an audience. It’s packed with 80’s jokes and references that younger children are unlikely to understand or appreciate, but the writing and acting are so juvenile as to be off-putting for adults. I think the intention is that families will watch it together, and parents can explain the references to the kids, but the film is rather wearing – a situation not helped by particularly mediocre child acting.

The other issue with the movie is that it keeps trying to present some moral lesson – to the extent that it dominates the frame narrative. The problem here is that there’s not really any lesson at all until the last (overly saccharine) 15 minutes. I’m not opposed to a moral lesson in a kids’ movie, but if you’re going to have one, at least work it in before the credits are about to roll. It feels like a term paper where the author forgot the thesis and frantically stuffed it into the concluding paragraph.

If this sounds like the kind of light holiday entertainment you’ve been looking for, you’ll be relieved to hear that there’s very little in the way of objectionable content. Some slapstick violence, childhood bullying, and a handful of mild terms of deity are about all you have to worry about – the movie is PG for a reason. And if you don’t mind the last-minute nature of the moral, then there’s a sweet little lesson about appreciating what you have, rather than obsessing over what you want. You’ll just have to sit through about an hour of questionable child acting to get it.

Directed by Michael Dowse. Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael, Sophia Reid-Gantz, Winslow Fegley. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release November 24, 2021. Updated

Watch the trailer for 8 Bit Christmas

8 Bit Christmas
Rating & Content Info

Why is 8 Bit Christmas rated PG? 8 Bit Christmas is rated PG by the MPAA for rude humor and some mild violence, language and suggestive references

Violence: Several people are punched, and one is thrown off an escalator. A dog is non-fatally crushed under a television.
Sexual Content: There are references to “nudie” magazines, and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover is seen.
Profanity: There are infrequent uses of terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are briefly shown drinking wine with dinner.

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8 Bit Christmas Parents' Guide

What does Jake try to tell his daughter about the Nintendo? What does she learn from the story? What does Jake realize in telling it?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Other Christmas movies for kids include A Boy Called Christmas, Arthur Christmas, The Claus Family, The Christmas Chronicles, and The Santa Clause. Older audiences looking for some Christmas laughs should try National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This film borrows some narrative elements from The Princess Bride.