‘8-Bit Christmas’ review: Now you’re playing with the power

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‘8-Bit Christmas’ review: Now you’re playing with the power

The Power Glove, a short-lived, notoriously clunky peripheral for the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released in North America in late 1989. “8 Bit Christmas” is set, according to its ardent narrator Jake (Neil Patrick Harris), in “1987 or 1988,” but it heavily features a power glove, the horrors of which actually trigger the motion. This may sound like a trivial anachronism. But it is typical of the film’s attitude towards nostalgia, which prefers references at the expense of discrepancies. In a moment the teenage hero is brandishing a 1989 Billy Ripken Flair card; In the next they’re navigating the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, which took place in 1983. It seems as if a decade of hazy memory has been flattened into an uncertain, sentimental mush.

When it’s not fountaining at roller rinks, “Goonies” posters, and Casio watches, “8 Bit Christmas” (streaming on HBO Max) is a warm and refreshingly earnest holiday comedy. The director, Michael Dowsey, gets good, grounded comic performances from his child actors (particularly Max Malas as the charming perennial fiber named Jeff), as well as a surprisingly rich twist from Steve Zahn, who plays this more “The White Lotus” ”, recently doing some of the best work of his career. The dynamic between the loving, outlandish Zahn and his Nintendo-obsessed son (Winslow Fegly) is the heart of the film, and — when they’re not debating the virtues of an 8-bit video game console — their relationship is poignant, tender, and quite. is influencing. But the film consistently deviates from period hallmarks, and while it may be compelling, its boombox and trapper keepers get in the way.

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8-bit Christmas
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.

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