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"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!"
A Christmas Story (DVD)
Member Name: venice105
A Christmas Story (DVD)
Date: 16/12/10, updated on 16/12/10 (39 review reads)
Advantages: A Christmas film that probably passed you by
Disadvantages: Has to be purchased as an import
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.
Summary: Darkly humorous tale of a Christmas in 1940's Cleveland