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'A Christmas Story' tells the familiar tale of a kid's longing for that one perfect Christmas gift. Every child has felt that desperation during at least one pre-Christmas season, wanting that one gift he or she will always remember as the best gift of his or her life. This film from 1983 puts a humorous spin on the lengths a nine year old boy will go through to convince his parents and Santa he should get the gift he really wants most.
Starring Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker and Melinda Dillion and Darren McGavin as his parents. Written and narrated by Jean Shepard and directed by Bob Clark, the story is adapted from Jean Shepard's book 'In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash'.
Throughout the story there are a few subplots woven in either involving Ralphie or his father, only known as 'the old man'. Ralphie is plagued by the school bully, has fun with friends, and attends school, all the things a kid would go through, but his mind never strays far from thoughts of how to get the holy grail of gifts. There are also some fun daydream scenes in which Ralphie sees himself as a hero, all involving the Red Ryder BB Gun he is so desperate to have. His father struggles with the furnace, car problems and the neighbours' dogs. All these are portrayed in a fun way that keeps the viewer laughing while commiserating with them.
Although there are several scenes where it is hinted at that foul language is used, there are only a couple minor swear words in the film. With many glimpses into life in 1940's Indiana, it is a fun film for the whole family to enjoy. It is sure to become a yearly tradition to sit down as a family to watch.
I was amazed when I found out that this American cult classic gets no airplay in the U.K., and is virtually unknown. It is very well known in the States now, but only after twenty years or so as a small film that gained an increasing following over the years. I was first introduced to it by my Grandfather, who just found it hilarious (to be fair he also liked Benny Hill and the U.S. version of Alf Garnett, All in the Family). And while this film does have an edge of anti-political correctness, it wouldn't compare to say, the Farrelly Brothers.
It tells the story of Ralphie, a young boy who wants nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder BB Gun. It is set in the 1940's in Cleveland, Ohio. This might bring to mind some Norman Rockwell, Waltons-esque Americana. But A Christmas Story is much more special than that, it is a real portrait of a real family (the author of the book Jean Shephard's recollection of his childhood), warts and all. Told from a kid's eye view in Ralphie's narration, it is sharp and clever at exposing grown up's foibles and inanities. It captures perfectly a child's obsession with Christmas, the torment of bullies, the annoyance of a spoiled little brother, and the world of fantasy that provides an escape from it all.
It is cute but never cloying or knowing about it, and always evenly balanced with an edge of dark humour. The setting of course provides a nostalgic gloss, it was a simpler time and that is inevitable. But at every moment where it teeters on the wistful, a hearty gag is thrown in for good measure. Ralphie seems doomed to say or do the wrong thing at every turn, and you cannot help but root for the kid to get his elusive, life changing present - the Red Ryder BB gun. This in itself is quaint in the face of today's youth expecting Xbox on top of Wii on top of Nintendo. It captures the sense of wonder that children have, and then obliterates it in a gentle fashion!
The charm of this film is hard to describe, and it may not be to everyone's liking. It tells a fairly simple story in a very amusing way, in episodic snippets in the leadup to Christmas and all the highs and lows that entails. There are no magical Santa Clauses (only a boozy, ornery one!) or Christmas miracles. There is much humiliation and punishment, be it from beatings, (triple dog!) dares or parents, so probably a bit more realistic than most holiday films! It never fails to raise many chortles in my household, and I am married to a Christmas curmudgeon of the highest order.
This film bears repeated watchings much better than 99% of the holiday dross they put on t.v. It is a family film that will amuse kids and adults alike. Despite some of it being dated in a sense, it still captures enough of the timeless frustrations of kid's demands and parent's despair at the holiday season to give a warm, fuzzy feeling that isn't remotely treacly. It can be purchased on Amazon via independant sellers, it is an import though so you will need a multiregional dvd player.
The house where this was filmed is now a museum, bought derelict and restored by a devoted fan - only in America maybe but a testament to its lasting charm.
Its coming up to Christmas and I decided to do a review on my all time favourite christmas movie. Its not the classic Muppets Christmas Carol or The Snowman but A Christmas Story.
Its funny and different to most other christmas films out there. The film revolves around a small boy in the 1950's, Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley. He's a typical boy and for christmas his biggest wish is to own a Red Ryder BB gun. The film follows Ralphies attempts to persuade his mum and dad and santa to get this for him. But all anyone seems to say to him is "you'll shot your eye out".
Although obviously not entirely Politically correct now it is still very funny and nostalgic. It was filmed in 1983 and written by the American radio comedy broadcaster Jean Shephard. He also narrates the story as the adult Ralphie, looking back at his fondest Christmas. There are some great moments in the film, including a kid getting his tongue stuck to a flag pole, a child so well wrapped up he can't put his arms down to his sides or get up when he falls over and the mothers attempts to get food into Ralphie's little brother. The film deals with the highs and lows and stresses of a typical Christmas of a typical family and a typical young boy.
The film is semi-autobiographical of the life of Jean Shepherd, and some of his stories which the film is based in were actually published in playboy. Don't let this put you off, they aren't really rude in a playboy way. The film does deal with swearing and bullying but it is a children's film, for kids and adults alike. Although I know the film isn't for everyone especially as its about a child wanting a BB gun I really enjoyed it as a child and it hasn't done any damage to me. The film even won two Genie Awards for screen play and direction.
It's a great story that doesn't need much thought, and would be perfect to sit down to watch after a filling Christmas dinner in front of the fire. I tried for ages to get it on dvd two years ago and had to get an import in the end but now I think it was re-released for its 25th anniversary so should be more readily available.