The Power Glove, a short lived and notoriously crappy peripheral for the Nintendo entertainment system, was released in North America in late 1989. “8 Bit Christmas” unfolds, according to its melancholy narrator Jake (Neil Patrick Harris), in “1987 or 1988”, but it heavily features a Power Glove, the horror of which actually sets the plot in motion. This may seem like a trivial anachronism. But that’s typical of the film’s attitude toward nostalgia, which relishes references to the detriment of inconsistencies. In an instant, the teenage heroes wield a 1989 Billy Ripken Fleer card; in the next, they navigate the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, which occurred in 1983. It’s as if the fuzzy reminiscence of a decade has been flattened into an undefined sentimental mush.
When he’s not making fun of ice rinks, “Goonies” posters and Casio watches, “8 Bit Christmas” (airing on HBO Max) is a warm and refreshing holiday comedy. Director Michael Dowse gets good comedic performances based on his child actors (especially Max Malas as a charming vivacious character named Jeff), as well as a surprisingly rich turn from Steve Zahn, who, between that and “The White Lotus “, has been doing one of the best jobs of his career lately. The dynamic between love and the outdoors Zahn and his Nintendo-obsessed son (Winslow Fegley) is at the heart of the film, and – when they’re not debating the merits of 8-bit video game consoles – their relationship is poignant, tender. and quite affecting. But the film is continually distracted by the features of the era, and while it may have been compelling, its boomboxes and Trapper Keepers get in the way.
Classified PG. Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.