Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss is a Disney Channel Premiere Film which was co-produced by WGBH, PBS’ American Playhouse anthology, and Disney. The film was written by Jean Shepherd and directed by Dick Bartlett, and it features Shepherd’s characters from the 1983 classic A Christmas Story (which was based on stories in his book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash). In Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss, the Parkers are going on a two-week lakeside vacation in the 1950s. It’s important to note that the cast is different here than in A Christmas Story. Jerry O’Connell plays teenage Ralphie. However, Jean Shepherd narrates as adult Ralph in both films. (The Parkers are seen in other PBS projects with different casts, including The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski.)
The vacation part of Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss doesn’t get going until about halfway through the movie, after the family loses and finds their dog. Ralph is supposed to stay back to work his first summer job moving furniture, but he gets fired and tells his family he’s quit. The Parkers finally get their overloaded car on the road, taking Fuzzhead the dog with them. Narrator Ralph is heard pontificating about travel, the road, and carsick brother Randy.
If you don’t like loud whining or long road trip scenes, this is not the movie for you. The mom only prolongs the agony by making the dad stop at a rug store on the side of a country road. She doesn’t buy a rug because the proprietor is too attached to her wares. “Just once, I’d like to get to Ollie’s before dark. Just once,” the father says. He does not get his wish. Consistent car problems make this supposed haven seem very out of reach. The Parkers have a roadside picnic where Randy becomes positively insufferable over not having a PB&J sandwich. In his defense, Randy barely has room in that car to breathe, much less move. The family finally makes it to Ollie’s grounds with about ten minutes left in the film. Just in time for Randy to use the outhouse, and for the dad and Ralph to bond.
I read that in 1994, a theatrical sequel was released in this Christmas Story universe: My Summer Story/It Runs in the Family. Tedde Moore, who played the teacher in the original ’83 film, was also in My Summer Story. The ’94 film starred Charles Grodin and Mary Steenburgen as the parents, with Kieran and Christian Culkin as the brothers. Fascinating. I’m not an expert on the film adaptations of Jean Shepherd’s writings, but I’m glad to have learned about a few of them through watching this film! I still need to check out A Christmas Story Christmas (2022).