A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids can gather some conclusions about ways life has changed for kids in the last 30 years.
It's important to appreciate what you have, even while longing for other things. Childhood is a magical time. Sometimes less is more for kids, and low-tech toys or just the company of other kids is as good as or better than having the latest gadget. There's some humor at the expense of marginalized groups/kids who don't fit in.
Positive Role Models
Parents show their love in different ways. Elementary-aged kids join together for a common objective. Even the typical school outcasts, like the pathological liar or the nerd, are part of the gang and their participation and opinion counts. Kids learn that expensive toys aren't the most important part of life.
The friend group based in a Chicago suburb has some diversity, mostly White and Black families. A dad in the present day says people were more "closed-minded" in the 1980s about a lot of things, including gendered clothing. An adult-sized school bully could logically be thought to have a learning disability that has held him back in elementary school. A boy is found to have ADD. Girls can't participate in boys' Scout meetings/clubs (but one does anyway, and she's the one female member of her twin brother's friend group). A family says a Christian prayer before eating.
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Violence & Scariness
Violence is largely played for humor. A school bully twice everyone else's size teases and threatens kids, throws them down a snow hill, and steals their possessions. A TV falls on a dog, breaking bones. In a flashback, a kid loses his temper at his grandmother. A deceased parent is missed by his family. Kids argue and tussle. A dad seems to have anger issues; he punches a man and tosses him over the side of a moving escalator at a mall while chasing his son. Kids sneak off a bus and get temporarily lost in the city. A dad buys a doll from a man under a bridge, and he brings a saw along for protection. A boy vomits violently, including on his teacher.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple snuggles and shares a kiss. Boys talk about a "nudie magazine" and trade a Sports Illustrated with a woman in a bathing suit on the cover. A boy accidentally plays a tape recording of him talking about having a (G-rated) dream about a female classmate.
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"Fricking," "damn," "damnit," "crap," "sucks," "poop," and childhood taunts like "jerk," "nerd," "idiot," "dumb," "stupid," "you baby," "four eyes," and "buttface."
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Products & Purchases
Brands are seen, including Nintendo, Kangaroos, Brite Lite, Life, Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, Trapper Keeper, Esprit, and Spaghetti-Os.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A dad drinks beer and asks if there's a bar at the mall. Adults drink wine with a holiday meal.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the book-based 8-Bit Christmas has mild language and bullying, but it's ultimately a kid-friendly feel-good comedy. The tale flashes back to a character's childhood in the late 1980s, so some of the comedy and portrayals -- particularly the angry dad -- can feel outdated. And there's some humor at the expense of marginalized groups/kids who don't fit in. But the film also pokes purposeful fun at '80s-era thinking about gender roles and what the future might hold. A diverse group of kids plots to try to get the latest, coolest gadget -- a Nintendo video game system -- but they learn that there are more important things than cool toys, like family. A schoolyard bully taunts and pushes the main friend group around. Language includes "fricking," "damn," "crap," "sucks," "buttface," and more. Boys talk about a "nudie magazine" and trade a Sports Illustrated with a woman in a bathing suit on the cover. A boy accidentally plays a tape recording of him talking about having a (G-rated) dream about a female classmate. A dad drinks beer and asks if there's a bar at the mall. Kids sneak off a bus and get temporarily lost in the city. A dad buys a doll from a man under a bridge, and he brings a saw along for protection. A boy vomits violently, including on his teacher. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This '80s nostalgia tour might appeal more to parents than kids, but its goofy tale of childhood shenanigans is fun for most ages. Anyone with a connection to the 1980s will appreciate the references in 8-Bit Christmas, from first-generation video games to the Cabbage Patch Kid craze, slideshows, roller rinks, leg warmers, baseball cards, triumphant Footloose music, and teachers insisting the Dewey Decimal System will always be vital for finding information. A boy's ADD diagnosis is described as "extremely rare" and parents protest the dangers of video games. Younger viewers will probably enjoy the sarcastic tone a present-day kid takes about the past, but the naivete of the '80s scenes and the way the kids roam freely in packs and hatch wild plots completely out of view of adults could leave a lasting impression.
Every generation seems to recall its own childhood years as more innocent, and in most cases, they're probably right. What this film shows is a time when kids had to use their own ingenuity and work hard to get coveted gifts and possessions, as opposed to just badgering Dad for a smart phone (as the present-day kid does). It ends as a tribute to a parent, a conclusion that doesn't feel entirely justified by the rest of the tale. The kid actors are great, especially star Winslow Fegley (Nightbooks), who never gives the impression he's acting, and the oversized, over-the-top elementary school bully played by Cyrus Arnold. Expect some political incorrectness by today's standards, delivered with an affectionate wink and nod.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.