Being Christmas and all I just had the chance to watch the annual favorite A Christmas Story (it is on 48 hours non-stop Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on TBS).
Well friends, I think it is worthy of such a marathon. In fact, I think it is one of the best portrayals of childhood ever in the movies. That’s right I will be that bold.
Yes it is funny but it has such heart and I relate to little Ralphie very strongly.
One of the great things about it is it is a couple weeks in the life of an ordinary family in the 30s. When you really think about it they pack a ton of story into one movie. The main plot is of course Ralphie’s desire to have a red ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle for Christmas and all the adults in his life telling him ‘you will shoot your eye out’.
But the subplots surrounding the air rifle are many and varied. We have Flick and the ice, Ralphie and his theme, the snow suit, the decoder pin, Ralphie’s Dad and the furnace and dogs, the Chinese restaurant, the pink bunny suit, the major award, Ralphie f-boming to his old man, I could go on.
But my favorite part is a subplot involving Scut Farkus and Grover Dill, the local bully and toadie. Peter Billingsley, who plays Ralphie, is so good in this scene and as someone who was bullied pretty badly it always gets to me.
It’s a terrific child actor performance and really moving when you think about the kind of trauma such a situation really is for a kid. It is no small thing. I love that Grover says ‘I’m telling my Dad’. That’s such good writing.
I also just LOVE his mother in these scenes played by Melinda Dillion. When she smooths things over with Dad and squeezes his arm it is such a touching moment between mother and son.
Like Home Alone Christmas Story is a movie that takes children seriously. Perhaps it is partly the dry wit yet warm narration that endears us to the story, helps us get inside the head of Ralphie but he is never treated like an idiot for being a kid. In fact, he is often the smartest one in the room.
There’s a real innocence to the picture that I love. I mean who can’t relate to betting your friends to do stupid things or that first time your parents catch you saying a naughty word? Most of us can. Most of us had Mothers who bundled us up too much for the winter and fathers who had their eccentric ways. I feel like a modern movie would put in a lot more silliness and be less grounded. We’d get strange pets and falls into swimming pools (and that slapstick can work as we see in Home Alone so it just depends). But Christmas Story has such heart and it at least rings true for the childhood in me.
It’s so well written too. The narration is done by Jean Shepherd who wrote the book the movie was based on and I have to tell you I’ve read the book and not near as funny or endearing as the movie. But his commentary is very well written and exactly what an adult would say when looking both cynically and nostalgically at his past.
But there are lots of little moments in the script that are brilliant. For instance, Ralphie is approached by The Wicked Witch while waiting to talk to Santa. He looks at her and says ‘go away. I’m thinking’. That is totally the kind of kid I was. I was social. I had friends just like Ralphie but I also had a contemplative, independent streak.
I also love the moment when Randy is upset over the bullying incident and the Mom finds him hiding in the dresser set. That’s just the kind of thing my sister would have done (My Dad was a total softee but if something big like that had happened she would have hidden away). I love that the Mom brings him his milk in the cubbard and let’s him stay there. Perfect.
The major award also totally rings true for me. My Father is a very passionate excitable guy. If he won a major award he would probably be equally excited. It’s those simple things in family life that can be the most humorous when looking back on them and that’s essentially what the narrator is doing. It’s hilarious and just lovely.
The pink bunny suit is also hilarious. How many of us also got that one gift from a distant relative that we didn’t want to wear? I certainly did. It’s a funny well written scene that most of us can empathize with. Love it.
I love it is Father who gets him the air rifle. It shows he is listening all along and shows a tenderness we hadn’t gotten since then. What a lucky kid Ralphie is to have such a wonderful family!
Finally, I love this movie because it is set in Indiana and shows the tough but sweet side of my Hoosier friends. Even Ralphie’s fantasies feel like the kind of daydreaming a kid would actually do. It all just works for me.
I love it. It makes me cry throughout and laugh. It is a wonderful movie and I’m glad it gets seen by so many every Christmas.
Overall Grade- A+ (Great writing, acting, heart, humor. Perfect)
It’s amazing it was directed by Bob Clark who helmed such classics as Baby Geniuses 1 and 2 and the Porky’s movies which are so lame and crass. I guess it’s the 1 hit wonder of directing. Wonderful job!
The abhorrent sequel recently produced one of the Nostalgia Critics best reviews. (language warning)