So it is summer and Ralphie is once again plagued by the local group of thugs and over what? Which kid’s spinning top is the king of the hill. The main bully, Lug, has an evil black top named Miranda and she is the reigning queen in the land of topdom. Ralphie plans on challenging that throne, even if it takes a bike ride into the “rough” side of town to seek out a Chinese import top, or purchasing a magical Gypsy top from a mysterious woman at the World’s Fair.
Meanwhile, The Old Man wages constant war on their hillbilly neighbors, the Bumpus family, what with their late-night hoedowns, construction projects involving outhouses and the 82 or so Bumpus hounds (yes, the same ones that stole the Christmas turkey right off the table in A Christmas Story). The lengths Mr. Parker goes to in order to drive the Bumpuses out of the neighborhood are hilarious.
While these dramas unfold, Ralphie’s mom embarks on a quest to collect a set of Hollywood branded dishware, starting with a gravy boat. All the ladies in the community go to the Orpheum Theater each week to see a movie and to collect a piece of the set. However, due to many weeks of shipping problems and unkept promises of exchange, all the housewives have ended up with multiple gravy boats and seemingly no hope of finishing their dish sets. Mom snaps one evening and leads a bit of a rebellion focused on the manager that simply must be seen.
This movie is really hysterical and is a must-see if you are a fan of Shepherd’s other work. His quirky sense of humor and dramatic buildups to the silliest things are priceless. Grodin is brilliant as the growling dad and Mary Steenburgen perfectly plays the soft-spoken mom who is still a force to be reckoned with. The Culkin kids are enjoyable in the roles of Ralphie and Randy and do a fine job on their own, even though at times, Kieran reminded me an awful lot of his famous older brother. I kept waiting for Ralphie to slap his cheeks in that immortalized Macauley way.
Long story short, My Summer Story is a fitting sequel to A Christmas Story and great family entertainment.