Written by Anna Harrison
8-Bit Christmas is the greatest ad that Nintendo has ever produced. Set largely in the 1980s (when exactly is murky), it follows Jake (Winslow Fegley) in his quest to get a Nintendo Entertainment System, despite his parents’ insistence that it will melt his brain, but along the way learns the true meaning of Christmas; there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but 8-Bit Christmas never tries to be groundbreaking, instead happily settling for “pleasant,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Director Michael Dowse takes a page from The Princess Bride by nestling its story within a story and having an adult Jake, played by Neil Patrick Harris, narrate his youthful adventures from the present day, where he struggles with his own daughter’s (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) desire to get a phone for Christmas. (This certainly has to be one of the easiest checks Harris has ever earned, as all he has to do is sit on the floor and dole out bits of wisdom and dispense the occasional joke, nodding sagely all the while.) Back when Jake was as young as his daughter is now, his desire for a Nintendo drove him to hatch a harebrained scheme with his ragtag, appropriately diverse group of friends, involving a very extended puke gag that might please child viewers but left this adult searching for something else to look at.
There’s little else to the plot of 8-Bit Christmas, though there are diverting asides making jokes about the Cabbage Patch Kid craze and Nintendo’s failed Power Glove, and Steve Zahn and June Diane Raphael as Jack’s parents prove solid comedic backup. The child actors are all game, even if some of their characters are interchangeable, and while you might be better served watching The Princess Bride or A Christmas Story, the other biggest inspiration for Dowse, 8-Bit Christmas is a harmless dusting of Christmastime snow and easy enough to throw on over a roaring fireplace.
8-Bit Christmas Trailer
8-Bit Christmas is currently available to stream on HBO Max.