Unlike most Christmas movies, which have come and gone over the past 30 years, “A Christmas Story” remains a staple for most families during Christmas time. In fact, the only other movie that can compare to its ever-lasting appeal would have to be “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And even that movie doesn’t get the annual non-stop 24 hour marathon showings on cable stations that “A Christmas Story” enjoys.
The popularity may have to do with its deep rooted nostalgia that appeals to all ages. This is something no other holiday movie can claim. And while the movie takes place in the 1940’s, many people (young and old) see it as a reflection on their own memories of how Christmas was for them. This universal appeal lies at the heart of this movie’s success.
Based on the short stories from the books “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” and “Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories” by humorist Jean Sheppard, the movie’s main plot revolves around a 9 year old boy named Ralph “Ralphie” Parker, living in a city in Indiana. Played to brilliant perfection by Peter Billingsley, Ralphie dearly wants an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200 shot range model BB gun with a compass in his stocking for Christmas.
However, Ralphie is foiled at every turn; first by his mother, than by his teacher and then even by Santa Claus himself. They all tell him “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.” Through all of his efforts: from writing an essay, to subtle hints to his parents, to pleads to dear ole Saint Nick – it would seem Ralphie was destined not to receive the thing he so most desperately wants. But all is not lost, Ralphie’s attempts finally succeeds in the end with his father coming to the rescue.
The other people in Ralphie’s life is his non-eating, whining, little brother Randy, who likes to hide in cupboards when things get scary. His friends Flick and Schwatz, who have an epic stand off with each other on the school playground, this truly funny incident ending in a “triple dog dare” and the arrival of firemen to get Flick’s tongue unstuck from a flag pole. To add to his troubles, Ralphie has to fend off a bully, Scut Farfus, seemingly every school day.
The movie is made up of short vignettes that can more than stand on their own; whether it be Ralphie’s slip of the dreaded F word, “The Old Man’s” battles with the furnace, going to the Christmas tree lot, and of course Ralphie’s daydreams. They all add up to tell a heart-warming, humorous story that brings back memories of one’s own childhood. Forcing everyone to say at some point in the movie, “That has happened to me”.
The whole cast is near perfect. With the stand outs being Darren McGavin as The Old Man, Ralphie’s Dad and Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Parker, Ralphie’s Mom. Although having great affection for his family, Ralphie’s Dad doesn’t always show it. The majority of affection is dished out by the mother, who more than compensates for the sometimes distracted father. We soon realize Ralphie’s Dad is really only a big kid himself; he becomes so overjoyed at winning a major prize, he can’t wait to see what it is – much like an excited kid dying to see what’s under the Christmas tree on Christmas day. In this case the prize is a tacky leg lamp with silk stockings.
This is just one of the pleasant surprises in this very funny heart-warning movie that well surely bring a smile to the viewer’s face again and again. Even the most Scrooge-like amongst us will find it hard not to be touched by the endearing story of Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun. This is a movie that just gets better and better with each viewing. It is definitely worthy to claim the title of “The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told.”
A Christmas Story (Ultimate Collector’s Edition) is now being release on Blu-ray Disc, marking the 25th anniversary of its original release. It’s not only a holiday classic that everyone should see, but a great film which will make you laugh and think back to a simpler time when you were a child. I highly recommended this movie to be a part of everyone’s film collection.
Video: The VC-1, 1080p encoded 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital
– audio commentary with star Peter Billingsley and director Bob Clark
– five-minute look at the present Ralphie covets, “A History of the Daisy Red Ryder”
– a featurette called “Another Christmas Story”
– 4 minute video called “Get a Leg Up”
– Script pages
– a trailer
– fake commercial for the Leg Lamp