IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY is a belated sequel of sorts to the 1983 movie A CHRISTMAS STORY. Bob Clark directed both films, based on humorist Jean Shepherd's memoirs about growing up in the 1940s, but the sequel retains only vestiges of the charm and bizarre humor which made the original a
surprise cult favorite.
Although it employs different actors than did the earlier picture, IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY takes another look at the Parker family: Dad, known only as The Old Man (Charles Grodin), Mom (Mary Steenburgen), elder son Ralphie (Kieran Culkin), and his younger brother Randy (Christian Culkin). The time
frame is a "memorable" summer marked by a feud with hillbilly neighbors, a fad involving killer spinning tops, and a scandal as Mrs. Parker is jailed for leading a "gravy-boat rebellion" at the local movie theater. In what passes for a sub-plot in this generally anecdotal narrative, most of the
town folk seem hellbent on catching their limit of the notorious crappies, said to be the only fish able to survive in a nearby polluted lake.
The screenplay, by Shepherd, Clark, and Leigh Brown, follows the same formula used in the original, setting up comic vignettes of a few minutes length, capping them off with a punchline (whether verbal or visual), then proceeding to the next set-up. But while A CHRISTMAS STORY gave Ralphie at
least a nominal objective--getting a toy air rifle for Christmas--IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY furnishes him with no goal short of getting through the summer. Kieran Culkin, younger brother of HOME ALONE's Macaulay Culkin, lacks the offbeat appeal of Peter Billingsley, who gave Ralphie a wistful,
Pillsbury dough-boy personality in A CHRISTMAS STORY. Grodin, though, is perfectly cast as the slow-burn prone Old Man, and Steenburgen invests Mom with the appropriate good-natured daffiness. A Jack Russell terrier named Barkley, absent from the original, turns up from time to time with minimal
comedic effect. But Shepherd himself, reprising his voice-over assignment, is dryly amusing, as when he recalls the childhood joy of eating jawbreakers as "almost worth the years of impacted wisdom teeth that were to follow." Such nostalgic references may be lost on contemporary audiences, which
may explain why MGM/UA jettisoned a national release in favor of modest regional bookings. Released to home video in 1995 under the title MY SUMMER STORY.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY is a belated sequel of sorts to the 1983 movie A CHRISTMAS STORY. Bob Clark directed both films, based on humorist Jean Shepherd's memoirs about growing up in the 1940s, but the sequel retains only vestiges of the charm and bizarre hu… (more)