A Christmas Story (1983)

Daddy’s Gonna Kill Ralphie

This movie came to me not as a request, but a demand.  It was not as my normal, politely phrased requests, but as the declaration that one of my friendships would immediately dissolve if this movie was not reviewed post haste.  Well I thankfully don’t have to make any changes to my friends list on Facebook because this movie has been watched and, by the time this is being read, has been reviewed.  Though the holiday season is over, I was told it was necessary to watch this Christmas movie.  I had thus far been able to avoid watching it, even though apparently everyone has seen it and it plays on TV for free nearly constantly during the holiday season.  This movie came out the year I was born.  I’m sorry Loni, but it’s true: I’m slightly younger than you.  Please stop crying.  But this movie is renowned as a holiday classic, so lets get into my review for A Christmas Story, written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark, directed by Bob Clark, and starring Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Ian Petrella, Tedde Moore, Zack Ward, Yano Anaya, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Tommy Lee Wallace, and the voice of Jean Shepherd.

This is a vaguely difficult story to follow because there’s one main storyline, but a great deal of subplots that really serve no purpose to the main plot.  This is due to the fact that the movie is based on a collection of short stories by Jean Shepherd.  The main plot of the movie is that Christmas is coming to Hohman, Indiana, and all of the kids are getting all worked up about it.  One boy named Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants one thing, and one thing only, for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.  Unfortunately for him, his parents (Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin) are not keen on the idea, thinking he’ll shoot his eye out.  Ralphie must find a way to change their minds, or to convince Santa to bring one.  Subplots include his father winning a lamp shaped like a leg, dad’s constant cursing leading to Ralphie dropping the F bomb, his friend Schwartz (R.D. Robb) dares his other friend Flick (Scott Schwartz) to lick a flagpole, Ralphie receiving a decoder ring, and Ralphie dealing with a bully named Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) and his sidekick Grover Dill (Yano Anaya).

Unfortunately for my former friend Loni, I did not like this movie as much as everyone else seems to.  It was decent and vaguely funny, but not strong enough to make me laugh.  I would say this about it though: probably one of the best Christmas movies.  Most Christmas movies are strictly kids movies and could only be enjoyed by children and people who saw these movies when they were children.  Nightmare Before Christmas holds up as a quality movie, but movies like How The Grinch Stole Christmas aren’t that great in adulthood.  This movie is good because it doesn’t strike me as a kids movie.  Nothing happens that’s super adult, but it does kind of shit on the whole Santa thing.  I still believed in Santa until I saw this movie.  First, they stretch continuity by having Santa participate in a parade and then be in the mall asking children what they want.  How could he have made it there in time?  Impossible!  Then, Santa’s kind of a dick and makes you think “This guy might not be the REAL Santa.”  Then, it turns out the parents are the ones who gave them the Santa gifts.  WHAT?!  Mom, you lying bitch!  Because it ruins the idea of Santa for the world, I can’t say it’s really for kids, but I didn’t find it all that entertaining as an adult either. The constant interjections from the narrator kind of got on my nerves, as did Ralphie’s little brother.  I did find the dream sequences pretty enjoyable.  I think it’s probably a fairly good representation of the goings-ons of a child’s mind.  He imagined that he would need the BB gun to fend off intruders from his backyard, he imagined writing the best essay in his class and everyone reacting as if a 9-year old had just written the greatest novel of our time, and he imagined that he went blind from having soap in his mouth.  These were fairly well executed.  There were a couple of things in this movie that didn’t make sense to me.  First of all, the scene that is probably seen the most out of this movie of the kid getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole.  Not that it happened, but that they called the fire department and the police department over it.  You can’t produce a cup of warm water?  Also, why did the teacher act like the kids should feel bad about daring him to do it?  Why?  I just made a suggestion, he was the one stupid enough to do it!  Also, though he doesn’t say the word in the movie, I don’t get the parents getting mad at Ralphie for saying “Oh, fuck.”  First of all, I’d fuckin’ high five my kid for that, and secondly, how do you not know where he heard that word?  The dad is downstairs cursing like a sailor about 4 times in the movie!  Then, the part where Ralphie beats the bejesus out of the bully.  First of all, I liked the scene, regardless of the fact that blood was coming out of his nose when Ralphie was clearly working the body.  Unless that kid was hemorrhaging internally, that’s not how it works.  Afterwards, Ralphie starts crying, mainly because he was only 9 and had already killed a man with his bare hands.  It made me think that perhaps his parents were right in not wanting to give the kid a BB gun, because he either has a severe anger management problem or a demon inhabiting his body.  But then, while wearing a ridiculous bunny costume, he worries that his reputation at school would be tarnished if they knew about this.  How would that happen?  First off, you defeated a bully that tormented all the kids of school.  And secondly, you beat him to death with your bare hands!  Let those mother fuckers talk shit!  See what happens!

When I had heard that ::SPOILER ALERT:: Ralphie shoots his eye out when he actually gets the BB gun, I assumed he would lose his eye in an accident with it, or in the very least that it would have gotten itself lodged in his glasses and his parents would take the gun away for his safety.  I was so bummed out when I got to this scene and they go pussy balls on us by making it just hit him in the cheek.  Huge letdown for me.  I’m sure the mom would still take the gun away for it because she didn’t want him to have it in the first place, but it got talked up far too much and I was really let down.  ::END SPOILER::

The performances were good, but very few people in this movie actually played likeable characters.  Peter Billingsley did a very good job as Ralphie.  He acted like a kid (mainly because he was one), but also had a couple of parts where he had to break into tears (both real and fake), and he did it very well.  Ian Petrella technically played his little brother very well, but I found him so irritating that I couldn’t enjoy his performance.  I thought their mom, played by Melinda Dillon, was a twat.  The actress did a good job in the performance, but the character seemed barely interested in Ralphie but thought Randy was the greatest, broke the lamp dad was so excited about because she was a bitch, and caused some innocent little boy to get the shit kicked out of him by his mom because she was too dumb to realize that Ralphie may have learned to curse from the dad that was semi constantly cursing.  I had no thoughts about the character of the dad, but Darren McGavin did a fine job with it.

Sadly, I may have lost a friend today by not being sold on A Christmas Story.  I found the story underwhelming and didn’t think any of it was particularly funny, the performances were good but the characters were mostly irritating, and the entire thing was narrated by a person I found annoying.  All this being said, I would still say it’s one of the better Christmas movies, but mainly because there’s not a lot of talent in that field.  I may well have found this movie amazing if I had watched it 28 years ago, but I didn’t.  Instead, I watched it when I was 28, and was not really interested.  The movie may also be hindered by the fact that it was a movie about kids, starring kids, and from a kid’s point of view, and I really don’t like kids.  I tend to find children 90% irritating and 10% cute, and usually only tolerable in small doses.  A Christmas Story gets “Oooh fuuudge” out of “It could be a bowling alley.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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