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.”

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Stephen King’s It (1990)

There’s Something Terribly Wrong Here In Derry

It has been a long time since I watched It, and it’s been a long time since I started It. October Horror-thon continues with a movie that I had no idea was actually BOTH sides of the disc it came on. I went in thinking I would rewatch a movie that was only an hour and a half, but it turned out to be double that. But Stephen King movies can tend to be pretty long. I’m pretty sure I’ve sat through The Stand too. This isn’t nearly as long as that, but it is surely an investment. Today’s movie is the classic Stephen King movie (that is apparently a 2-part TV movie turned one long movie), It, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, written by Stephen King, and starring Tim Curry, John Ritter, Annette O’Toole, Richard Thomas, Harry Anderson, Tim Reid, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, and Michael Cole, and the 1960’s versions of the same characters being played by Tim Curry again, Brandon Crane, Emily Perkins, Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, Marlon Taylor, Adam Faraizl, Ben Heller, and Jarred Blancard. Thems is some cast.

In the beginning, a young girl is riding a tricycle until her mother tells her to come inside. As she’s heading inside, she sees a clown in her mother’s hanging laundry. By the way, does anyone use laundry lines anymore? Probably just the deep south. Well anyways, when the mother comes back outside, the girl is apparently dead. We don’t see it, so we can hardly be sure. Mike Hanlon (1990 = Tim Reid, 1960 – Marlon Taylor) finds out about the murder and realizes that something he and his friends dealt with in their past has returned and is killing kids, so they have to deal with it because they promised each other 30 years earlier. These friends were a bunch of misfits that came together to form what they called “The Losers Club” (which is a much worse name than the Breakfast Club) and was comprised of Bill (1990 = Richard Thomas, 1960 = Jonathan Brandis), Beverly (1990 = Annette O’Toole, 1960 = Emily Perkins), Richie (1990 = Harry Anderson, 1960 = Seth Green), Eddie (1990 = Dennis Christopher, 1960 = Adam Faraizl), Ben (1990 = John Ritter, 1960 = Brandon Crane), Stan (1990 = Richard Masur, 1960 = Ben Heller), and Mike. And I am so happy that I got having to type all of those names out of the way. The remainder of the movie is told jumping back and forth between 1990 and 1960, so I will do my best to summarize.

As Mike calls each of his friend, we catch a piece of what brought them together and what brought them to the problem they must return for. The fat kid is bullied and has no friends until he comes across the stutterer and the asthmatic and they resolve to build a dam for some reason. (By the way, I’ve lost interest in trying to find what their names are, so this is how I will refer to them from now on). The fat kid gets a crush on the girl and introduces her to the group, then they are joined by the comedian (which I say because “the funny one” would indicate that his comedy was funny) and the boyscout. Later on the black one joins. Each one of the Losers encounter a monster that usually comes in the shape of a clown that introduces itself as Pennywise (Tim Curry), but they call It (I will call it Pennywise because It may get confusing). Pennywise kills the stutterer’s little brother and a couple other kids around town. After each of the Losers has encountered Pennywise on their own, they resolve they must destroy it. They manage to damage Pennywise before he escapes, and the group file that under “Good Enough”, but promise to return if it should ever return. They then forget all about the situation until the grown up black one calls them about Pennywise’s return. The group must reunite to take out Pennywise once and for all … except for the boyscout. He kills himself instead.

Oh my Odin! Has any one movie caused me to write so much description before I get to the review? Because it took me so long, I’ll just say “fuck this movie” and call that a review …

…You still here? Okay, I’ll review it. Disregard the “fuck this movie”. It was said out of frustration and I didn’t mean it. This movie is solid, but it has certainly lost something with the combination of time and the fact that I didn’t realize it was a made for tv movie so I expected more for the budget. Best I can tell, this movie is about fear and not letting it run your life. When they’re kids, their fear is in their imagination and no one can see the effects Pennywise has except the kids. That same fear haunts them still into adulthood and has left them not at their best. The fat kid is an alcoholic, the girl is in an abusive relationship, the asthmatic is still a virgin, the boyscout kills himself at the mere mention of Pennywise, the black one is still black, and the stutterer has basically turned into Stephen King. The comedian, however, is way more successful than the quality of his humor should justify. Once they conquer their fear, their lives take a turn for the better. I would say that the resolution could have been better, though. You would assume that conquering their fears would just involve them deciding they are no longer afraid and Pennywise no longer has any power over them, and then simply fades away. Instead, conquering their fears takes the form of beating the shit out of a giant, fake-y spider with their bare hands and feet. I guess the message still remains.

This movie had it’s fair share of cliche’s though. The fat kid who is new to school gets picked on by the most classic greaser gang I’ve ever seen since Indiana Jones 4 (and, just as cliched, the fat kid manages to find the ability to beat up his bully). And what’s that little greaser shit’s problem? When fatty first shows up, he openly mocks the kid in class. Fatty just sits down and does nothing to him, but the greaser gets all mad at fatty when the teacher punishes him. Fatty ain’t done nothing to you. You should’ve waited until there wasn’t a teacher directly in front of you to mock him if you didn’t want to get in trouble so bad. This greaser was also a racist, so of course they pick on the black kid as well. It made me laugh when they were chasing him, though. You honkeys can’t catch the black man. That’s just genetics. Man, I am going to convince the world that I’m a racist in this one review, aren’t I? They also have a building montage when the kids make their little dam, and not much is more cliched than a montage. Also, is every visiting businessman Japanese? How many times has a business person had to deal with a group of visiting businessmen in movies and almost every time they’re Japanese. I’m sure other places have businesses. They did do one thing that broke from norms when they all tested each other to see who was the best shot with the slingshot and the girl won, probably because all of the boys couldn’t see and/or count. When they were shooting at the bottles, they said she got 10 out of 10, but I’m pretty sure I counted 6. I understand the need to have a girl in the group so as not to seem sexist, but this chick is stringing along the fat one while having a crush on the stutterer, though she will openly kiss any of the other ones right on the mouth. These boys probably ran a train on this girl in the college years. Except for the asthmatic. VIRGIN!

There were a lot of things to this movie that didn’t work for me. For instance, should the person that stutters really be trying to finish people’s sentences so much? You can’t even finish your own! When the girl has had enough of her abusive boyfriend, she starts throwing things from her counter at him. She hits him with heavy glass items, metal items, but what takes him down? The plastic cream container. And when Pennywise is trying to lure fatty into the sewers by turning into fatty’s deceased father, why would he turn back to the creepy clown instead of staying in the form of his dad until he got into the sewers? Didn’t think that one out, did ya Pennywise? The giant creature that Pennywise has turned into at the end of the movie is really obviously superimposed, but when I found out this was a made for TV movie from 1990, I had to give it a pass. What I refuse to give a pass is the gigantic problems with these kid’s imaginary problems. I swear it took me until the second disc – one and a half hours in – to realize that only the kids could see the blood coming out of the sink, or the balloons that burst and sprayed blood, or the blood coming out of the photo album of the stutterer’s little brother. I assumed that it was a Freddy Krueger type thing where the parents acted like nothing was happening because it would go away if you ignored it. And, when I had finally figured out that only the kids could see it, they did the scene in the library where the blood-filled balloons burst in people’s faces but they all obviously flinched.

Then we come to the performances. The only thing I liked about most of the performances was getting to see Seth Green from way back when and getting to remember who Jonathan Brandis was. That guy was the biggest thing back in the day. Whatever happened to him. …Oh. Hanged himself? Pennywise must’ve come back… Um…Seth Green, everybody! I love Robot Chicken! Most of the performances of the kids were solid. I don’t expect much from child actors, generally. I don’t think all of them need to be a Fanning or something. I did have problems with the adults though. At least in the first disc, most of the adult characters were needlessly hamming it up. Except Ritter. Ritter was the fuckin’ BOSS! I miss that dude… Damnit, Robert! Stop with the deaths and sadness! Ritter was very good though. Harry Anderson’s comedian character got on my nerves. As a kid, I accepted it. That was either because I like Seth Green or because kids think they’re funny but they’re not. His humor didn’t really evolve much into adulthood and he just served to grate on my nerves. Tim Curry kind of hammed it up as well, but he was playing a clown, so I called it appropriate. And, of course, he was pretty damned unsettling as well, but when ISN’T Tim Curry unsettling. I figure Pennywise is the reason some people are afraid of clowns. On the negative side, the character occasionally reminded me of Freddy Krueger in that he was a killer that made lots of lame jokes while trying to be scary, and I don’t appreciate being forced to remember Freddy.

Damn. That review was almost as long as the movie. I feel like I should throw in right now that I would not consider myself a racist or a sexist, so if you could take those comments above with a grain of salt, it would be appreciated. I can’t really filter something I think is funny. As for the movie, it’s really long and just barely worth the time. The story is alright, the meaning is good, most of the performances are tedious, and a lot of things don’t make sense. It’s not horrible, but there are better ways to spend almost 3 hours. I’ll give this movie “They all float down here” out of “Want a balloon?”

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!