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A Christmas Story (1983)

24 December 2002 by Gnoll One Comment


1983, Dir. Bob Clark
94 min. Rated PG.
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Ian Petrella.

Review by Noel Wood

#1 on our list of the Best Christmas Movies Ever!

The original tagline to the film that winds up atop our Retarded Christmas Top Ten is “A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One-Hundred-Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Christmas.” And nothing could be closer to the truth. A CHRISTMAS STORY is about as perfect as a Christmas movie can be, relevant at the time of its release not only as the time it represents, but for modern times as well.

I’d hope you’ve all seen this movie. If you have cable, there’s no way you’ve been able to miss the “24 hours of A CHRISTMAS STORY” that TNT has aired for the last several years. If not, then close your browser, sign off the internet, and get to your local video store now to rent it. I don’t care what time of year it happens to be when you read this. Right now, it’s eighteen minutes into December 20th, and I’m absolutely jonesin’ to watch this movie.

I remember the first time I ever saw this movie. I was maybe ten years old, and came downstairs to my living room one December morning to find my father watching HBO. There was some Christmas movie on that I didn’t recognize at the time, which my somewhat protective father seemed to not want me to watch, citing that “the language was pretty bad”. In actuality, I’d snuck down on many occasions to watch far worse fare, so hearing a couple “damnit”s didn’t really faze me. I remember the infamous tire-changing scene where Ralphie says “Oh Fudge”, and seeing my father cringe thinking something else was about to be said.

Next thing I knew, I had a new favorite Christmas Movie.

Again, in case you’re one of those people living under a rock who didn’t heed my earlier advice and are still reading this without having seen the film, A CHRISTMAS STORY is the tale of a midwestern family in the 1950’s trying to cope with a, for lack of a better word, eventful Christmas season. Our hero is Ralphie Parker, your all-American midwestern kid, who has but one dream for Christmas: An official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. Oh, he doesn’t just put this thing on his Christmas list, mind you. He makes his parents quite aware. He lines up for Santa at the local shopping mall. He even writes a paper about it in class. And yet, each time he pleads his case, he’s met with the same response: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

All the while, Ralphie’s exploits are documented. His confrontations with yellow-eyed bully Scott Farcus, in which his little brother Randy plays dead in the snow because “it was his only defense”. His triple-dog-dares amongst his buddies, leading to his friend Flick adhering his tongue to a lamppost. his quest to finally decipher Little Orphan Annie’s secret message with his secret decoder ring. The family’s ongoing struggle with the hillbilly neighbor’s dogs, the Bumpus Hounds. His father’s receipt of a “major award”, which turns out to be a beacon of electric sex, a lamp in the form of a showgirl’s leg.

In fact, there is just scene after scene of hilarity in this film. It’s quite possibly one of the funniest films to ever be made, much less one with a holiday theme. As a result of this movie, I still sing Randy’s “Meatloaf double Beatloaf” tune in my head whenever I see a plate of meatloaf. I still think of the feverish quest to decode Annie’s message whenever a “More Ovaltine Please” commercial hits my television. And I still fear Scott Farcus, but not nearly to the level that I fear the weird kid that accompanies Randy and Ralphie in line for Santa who really likes THE WIZARD OF OZ.

For folks that grew up in the time it’s set, it rings so true. Kids don’t get BB guns for Christmas anymore, they don’t wait unattended for Santa in the local mall, and radio shows have been replaced by Elmo and Barney. But they did in the 1950’s, and this is captured so perfectly. But even so, this movie transcends half a century to still be relevant at this time. I’m not sure exactly what it is. The timing, the seemingly endless stream of memorable scenes, the unmistakable feeling of being a kid — no matter what decade you grew up with. There’s an intangible at work here, and it really pays off. The narration really helps to bring it all together as well.

The comedy is timeless. I catch myself using the jokes from this movie all the time, even outside of the holiday season. Brand Names like “Ovaltine”, “Lifebouy”, and “Red Ryder” will always conjure up images of Ralphie and his kin. It may be the perfect Christmas movie, and has definitely earned its place among the top of the season’s hits.

This Christmas day, no matter what else you do, make sure you tune your set to TNT for at least one two-hour span, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Best. christmas. Movie. Ever. No question.

One Comment »

  • dia carmona said:

    A Christmas Story is a fun movie to watch with the family.

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