A Christmas Story (1983) – A Review
“A Red Ryder BB gun, with a compass and a stock and this thing that tells time.”
“I can’t put my arms down!”
“I triple dog dare you!”
“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”
“He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny.”
“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.”
Even if you’re a casual movie fan you probably recognize at least one, if not all of those lines from the 1983 film A Christmas Story.
There has been tons of Christmas films, songs, and television specials through the years. Some have become holiday classics, while others have fallen by the wayside and are just included in Christmas television marathons to fill up time.
Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story adapted by the works of Jean Shepherd is as simple and funny a holiday film as you can get.
In 1943 Christmas season has arrived. Young Ralphie Parker has set his sights on one thing he dreams of getting on Christmas morning – A Red Ryder BB Gun. Unfortunately Mom is against the idea with the ever ominous warning that he’ll ‘shoot his eye out”.
With the clock ticking Ralphie tries any scheme to guarantee he’ll be opening that Red Ryder BB gun Christmas morning. Along the way we experience the universal kid foibles that every kid has to deal with – bullies, an annoying sibling and getting a C+ on your homework.
A Christmas Story has become one of my personal favorites. It was a film I saw when I was little and I immediately latched onto it. I was around when it first hit theaters and thought it was great. It was charming, innocent and really funny! Regardless of it being a ‘Christmas’ movie, I often considered it one of the funniest films from the 1980’s and also a film that’s just as quotable as any of the great comedies in filmdom.
The cast are all great – Melinda Dillion, Peter Billingsly, all the kids and at this point I can’t imagine any other actors filling any of the parts. My personal favorite – Darren McGavin as the Old Man. He is so hysterical with his mumbling cursing and his excitement at finally winning his ‘major award’.
I always liked the setting the film takes place in. We’re dropped in somewhere around 1939-41 in Indiana. Generally people’s best, most memorable holiday experiences occurred in the past, which is what shapes our love for the season. So that nostalgic, purer atmosphere makes the film feel much more special than if it had been set in modern day.
The film doesn’t drip with holiday sentimentality like so many other Christmas stories do. Everyone isn’t gathering around the dinner table holding hands singing songs – the Bumbus dogs took care of the Christmas turkey. So the Parker family find themselves in the oddest place to have their Christmas dinner – a Chinese restaurant next to a bowling alley with the staff warbling out Christmas songs.
However, with all the humor there is heart to the story and love in the family we see. As the credits roll we learn that we’ve witnessed Ralphie receive his greatest Christmas gift he will ever receive in his lifetime. That statement gets us to wonder what each of us would say is our own personal greatest Christmas gift. Most likely it’s something from years ago when we were also around Ralphie’s age.
Gradually the film gained popularity on cable and video rentals and has since become a holiday tradition for millions of movie fans. The one downside to this for me is that I’ve seen the film so many times I can barely watch it anymore. TNT airs a 24-hour marathon of it, so inevitably I’ll catch some of a Christmas Story, but it’s not likely I’ll sit through the whole thing again.
It’s not like my love for the film has disappeared. Just last year someone gave me a mini-Christmas Story leg lamp and I was almost as happy as Ralphie on Christmas morning! And I get jazzed to hear so many people of all ages know the film and love it.
It’s kind of cool seeing how a movie that barely anyone was aware of when it first came out has become so beloved. It just took them awhile to discover it.