I was almost finished recording "A Christmas Story" on last Christmas morning. Fifteen minutes before it ended, my father walked in and said that we would get the special edition soon.
That I didn't go postal at losing an hour and a half of my favorite holiday on something that would shortly be redundant shows how much I love "A Christmas Story." This 1983 classic is not just a heartwarming little story about a loving (if bickery) family in the dour America of the late 1940s, but a hysterical comedy about what it's like to be a kid at Christmas.
Ralphie Parker's (Peter Billingsley) Christmas wishes are simple: a official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass and a "thing that tells time." But his mom says he'll shoot his eye out. So Ralphie begins a quiet crusade to get it as a present -- he writes an essay on it and even asks Santa, only to get the same terrible reply: "You'll shoot your eye out."
As the days tick down to Christmas -- with no sign of an air rifle -- Ralphie hits other obstacles when he clashes with bullies, says "the mother of all dirty words," and watches his parents battle it out over a tacky "major award" (leg lamp). But there are surprises in store for the Parker family on Christmas morning -- and some of them involve smelly bloodhounds.
Yes, the plot is pretty simple -- it's the delivery that makes it special. It's narrated by an adult Ralphie who offers his slightly sardonic take on everything ("We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice"), mingled with a hint of nostalgia. And it's completely tuned in to how kids think, and how a toy can seem like the most important thing in the world.
Fortunately the scriptwriters never condescend to the audience by adding some kind of syrupy message about love and family and all that -- after all, real life doesn't work that way. Instead there are all sorts of classic moments -- the leg lamp, Chinese turkey, the terrifying visit to Santa ("HOOOO HOOOO HOOO!"), and Ralphie's fantasies of defending his family with "Ol' Blue" against a bunch of inept, unarmed bandits.
And Jean Shepherd -- the co-writer and narrator of the movie -- deserves especial credit for bringing this movie to life with his slightly stressed-out delivery. He covers the movie with a snowstorm of one-liners and hilarious dialogue: "Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap." "He looks like a pink nightmare!" "Oh FUUUDDDDGGGE!" and others. McGavin gets many of the best ones, though ("FRA-GEE-LAY... that must be Italian!").
Billingsley is a little stiff as Ralphie, but gives the portrayal of this everykid his charming, slightly frenetic best. He's never oversmart or annoying, ever. Melinda Dillon and Darin McGavin are the comic geniuses here, with their slightly kooky but loving parents (one of the highlights is Dillon's "show me how the piggies eat!" scene, and McGavin's revolted response), and there's an array of very convincing bullies and classmates too.
"A Christmas Story" didn't get much notice when it came out in 1983. But now it's one of the quintessential holiday movies, and a must-see at Christmastime. HOOOOO HOOOOO HOOOO...
on April 16, 2011
I finally broke down and ordered this because it hasn't been shown here on TV for years. It's my favourite Christmas movie and has been a tradition in my family to watch it every year, several times if possible. Now we can do that!! This is a wonderful film that catches what it was like to be a child at Christmas in the mid 40's & 50's. Ralphie's plotting and scheming to get what he really wants for Christmas, to me rings so true. One of my favourite scenes is the kid sticking his tongue to the flagpole & having it frozen to the pole. The kids don't know what to do & Ralphie's classic line "I don't know, the bell rang" is just so true, at least for me. When I was a kid, when the bell rang at school, you dropped what you were doing & headed for the door & this scene captures that beautifully.
All in all this is a delightful story of a bygone era, when life was simpler & kids still believed in the magic of Christmas. A big rating of A+ + + + + + + .........
on December 26, 2003
I have read one review that was rather scathing of some of the actors.... I don't give a darn about what some of them have done in the past... Here is my review of this Christmas Classic...
Little Ralphie Parker wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and his Mother to the Teacher tell him that he would shoot his eye out... It was funny to hear the kid talk about Grizzley bears and shooting the bad guys in his daydreams...
I thought that it was good to see Peter Billingsly as he is now... Even his fellow actor that dared Flick to stick his tongue to the pole still looked the same too... The one who played Farkus was just having a ball in the interview! I could see that he and his fellow co stars had a great time doing the film...
I even thought that it was great to see how that outrageous "leg lamp was made... and even watching the film about how the BB gun was made.... As to the others that were not there, maybe "Randy" wasn't interested and The old man and the mom could not be added to the DVD to to space... DVDs are always improving... There is always a next time...
I thought that the film looked sharp and crisp.. The commentary was really cool, and I thought that the 20th Anniversery release of this film was better then expected... I hope that some of you will give this new release a chance and Just injoy it... I know I will...
"You'll Shoot your Eye out Kid!"
on December 21, 2003
Jean Shepherd's classic A Christmas Story was not a big hit when it was released to theatres in 1983 (in fact, I don't remember any advertisement of it that Christmas). However, thanks to Jean Shepherd's narration and story telling and Peter Billingsley's performance of the shy and scheming Ralphie, who wants a Red Ryder BB gun more than anything else in the world. When my father 1st saw it on video, he was amazed at how much the father (sometimes flamboyant, but always respected- or else) reminded him of himself (what real life father couldn't relate to a man whose obscenities flew over Lake Erie for years?). The mother is a lot like my own, except for the "Pretend you're a piggie and this is your trough!" scene which my mother certainly wouldn't have tolerated! Ralphie, of course, reminds me of myself. Although I never asked for a Red Ryder, there were plenty of other presents Santa had to bring or it just wasn't Christmas! Scut Farkus is pretty real, too, as the menacing bully, as well as the no-nonsense teacher ("Those of you who put Flick up to this know who you are and I'm sure you feel terrible!") and the Bumpus neighbors' annoying dogs (one gets their tail caught in the door but they get their revenge!). Ralphie's kid brother is realistically whiney: "I can't move!" Then there's Ralphie's buddies, the conniving Schwartz and the hapless Flick, whose double dog dare acceptance gets him in big trouble! The fantasy sequences are quite amusing! Which brings me back to the BB gun- Ralphie makes his request known to his mother and his teacher ("You'll shoot your eye out!") and finally hopes Santa can bail him out, despite an attitude bigger than his belly and 2 ornery elves helping not so jolly Santa at Higbee's department store!
on December 17, 2003
A Christmas Story is one of my favorite movies to watch on Christmas, I really can't see getting through Christmas without watching the Marathan that TNT shows every year, which is a good thing. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since it's release, how fast time goes by. It's a film with with a very special meaning to it, it made me feel when I was a child excited and thrilled to wake up Christmas Morning and find my favorite Christmas present. Even though the DVD looks great, I wouldn't buy this movie, simply because of the fact that the only time I watch is during Christmas, it's one of the films I think that's better left that way, watch only one time a year, but that's not to say it's not worth your money, because it is, I'm sure of it. If you've watched this film as much as I have, you begin to appreciate it's plot and happy ending, you feel happy & emotional for Ralpy and you begin to think of yourself & your own family, and when you've watched it as many times as I have, you understand why it's a classic and why you cannot go through one Christmas without seeing it. Ya know Christmas can be the most dreadful time of the year for many people, because of the shopping, travel, and money you have to spend, but the one thing keeps it positive for me is watching "A Christmas Story" on Christmas Eve with the tree light blinking, the presents under the tree, just lying in the recliner all night long, eating lasagna & meatball sandwiches (that's what's cooked up every XMAS at my house), and enjoying a 24 hour marathon of my favorite christmas movie. It really don't get any better than that for me. :-)
on December 16, 2003
A true classic, in the best sense of the word. It's not a "stuffy" classic that everyone admires but no one actually enjoys. It's not a classic in that it's a movie your grandparents really admire...but you have no use for. Another word for CHRISTMAS STORY would be "timeless." I have seen this movie nearly every year since it first came out on the big screen 20 years ago. I enjoy it EVERY TIME. All the classic comic moments remain hilarious even now.
Tongue stuck to flagpole. The bully with the yellow eyes...and his comeuppance. The sexy lamp. The frightening Santa. It's all there. Saying "oh fudge!" The movie had a beautiful feel of nostalgia when it came out, and it has the same feel today. I think for many viewers, this movie has come to define what small town, depression era America was like. Innocent in all the best ways.
Oh, did I mention the dog and turkey scene? Or the "how to the piggies eat" scene?
Anyway, this is the one movie about Christmas that everyone has seen. I can mention it to people who think high-art is THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and they recall CHRISTMAS STORY with fondness. I can mention it to people who normally only see films with sub-titles, and they "ooooh" with misty eyes at their favorite memories.
Truly, there isn't a single scene in the movie that's stinker. It's one of the leanest, meanest movies you'll ever see. The fat was trimmed very well indeed.
Peter Billingsley as Ralphie is perfect in the role. This kid is almost as big an icon of Christmas entertainment as the Grinch! Darren McGavin, a favorite of mine, is just terrific as the crusty father with the flair for expletives. The list could go on. Not a single role is miscast or forgettable.
If by some chance you haven't seen it and can't decide whether you should or not...just go ahead and buy it. Once you've seen the movie...it'll become a part of YOUR Christmas tradition too!
(One very tiny note of warning: the movie doesn't deal with the religious aspects of Christmas one little bit. It is a totally secular holiday, if this film is to be believed. If you want a show that remembers the Christ in Christmas...then the Charlie Brown Christmas special needs to be under your tree this year.)
on December 10, 2003
A Christmas Story is a neo-classic tale, of a young boys quest for a Red Rider BB-gun, that truly rings in the holiday spirit. For me it almost happened the same way, except the gun was a toy called the "Johnny Seven", that boasted bullets, grenades, and missile launchers. Seen through the eyes of Ralphy, the Christmas story details perfectly, a kids eye view of what it is to fantasize, and lobby your parents for your favorite Christmas present.
What was so amazing about the movie was how so many of those things happened to my family during one Christmas or another. Even the ruined dinner, causing them to go to the Chinese restaurant happened. Not by invading dogs, but by an overcooked bird. I think back then, Chinese restaurants were about the only places open on Christmas.
Ralphie's adventures at school were typical as well, bullies, toadies, and the faceless mass of victims, were the order of the time. I used to get hit by bullies on the way home with these wooden rulers most school kids carried. My dad gave me a heavy brass one, that helped me win a few battles, but I was forbidden to take it to school later. You see it fell off my desk a few times, startled the teacher, and most of my classmates.
Seeing Santa at the large department store, was always a big deal. We once waited for hours at the new outdoor mall for a Santa, who was to come in by helicopter. In the end, he didn't come, and the merchants tried to console us with discount coupons. The times I made it onto to Santa's lap, I was always convinced I'd get whatever I asked for, even though it didn't always turn out that way.
The rest of the family in this movie was just as genuine; every dad has his quirks, and his talents. Every mom her ways of working the system to come out in her favor, at least most of the time. Behind the scenes, parents do some amazing things on Christmas. While I thought it was Santa at the time, it still amazes me to this day, how my dad built that fancy Lincoln Log Cabin. I was never able to come even close to duplicating it, once I took it apart.
One of the main things that keep this movie genuine, is that it's an ordinary family, and a personal Christmas. Not everyone goes to bother the relatives during the holidays, at least not for an extended visit. We have a normal, intimate, family ceremony of opening the gifts, and then enjoying the presents. Like the classic gift scene in this movie, my dad had hidden from sight my "Johnny Seven", ultimate toy weapon, and only after I had looked disappointed enough, told me where to look. When this movie played for the first time in the 80's, those great times as a kid, all came back to me with some degree of fondness.
As for this particular DVD incarnation. I love it when they give you both the Wide screen, and Full screen versions. In the not so distant future we may all be getting HDTV screens, with wide, motion picture, aspect ratio's. Some of the full screen only DVDs I have today, may end up with black bars on sides, (on the new wider TVs) due to how they are produced. If I have a choice, I buy the wide screen, and live with the letterbox. Its great when the producer gives you both, without charging you like your buying two movies.
on December 8, 2003
"A Christmas Story" is one of those cinematic joys that are lucky enough to have a second life and become a true holiday classic. Director Bob Clark crafted a film adaptation of Jean Shepherd's autobiographical "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" that crackles with the author's humor and warms the heart like a yuletide log on the fire. Like all exemplary films it does this with a great story, fine actor performances, direction, and that most rare of qualities: resonance between its filmmakers and audience. Among the few Christmas holidays movies I (and my kids) watch annually, this one never misses a rotation.
Set in the 1940's in the weeks before one fateful Christmas day (for what has to be one of film's quintessential American nine-year olds), one Ralph Parker begins his tactical scheme to convince his parents to gift the one thing he prizes most: an official Red Ryder-carbine action-200 shot-range model air rifle. My mother would have disdainfully called this a "bb-gun", but she shares a lot with Ralph's mom's sentiments. "You'll shoot your eye out!"--boy, does that bring back memories. And, with that, Shepherd and Clark begins the connection for the audience's holiday journey with the family Parker.
Along the way (and through his eyes and ears), Ralph's travails with family, school, social miscreants, and the unique traditions and trappings of Xmas will be crystalized on celluloid. Also, as another wonderful film, "It's a Wonderful Life", could only take place in Bedford Falls, NY, this movie could only be in its northern Indiana setting. It only adds to the fun with its wintery Midwest perspective and customs. Finally, tag on to this Shepherd himself providing the wonderful voice-over narration to the story of his childhood thoughts, pathos, and sentiments of that era and you get a unique, gleeful mix.
Peter Billingsley gives what may be his best performance as 'Ralphie' in a role most people will always associate him with. Who else could blurt out his one true desire in one lightning fast sentence to his mom, only to realize in the next split-second it was the worst thing he could say (and then quickly try to heroically recover from it) than this child actor. He may not have been used in many movies, but his precocious nature is pitch perfect here. He brings a kid's true depth of feeling to this banner day.
"My mother hadn't had a hot meal for herself in 15 years." The underrated Melinda Dillon is equally up to the task as the mother that he attempts to win over in his Christmastide plan. Whether she's chastising Ralph with her 'mother-bb-gun-block' or using a pig as an hilarious example to motivate the younger Randy to eat dinner, she's one special parent and character in this movie. While it's Ralph's story, it's the mom that holds this family (and the holiday) together despite efforts by her oldest, and her husband.
"My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium--a master." Veteran character actor Darren McGavin almost steals the show with his portrayal of the "Old Man". He strikes fear in his sons, and challenges his wife with his poor artistic taste. But, he can also rescue his boy from a "pink nightmare" and save Christmas dinner by taking the family to a Chinese restaurant. He's a one-of-a-kind, grumpy (but merry) father. It's another one of the successes of this movie: all of the characters in it are great in their roles, no matter how small. From Ian Petrella as Ralph's little brother Randy to Zack Ward as the bully Scut Farkas, they are all consummate.
This brings us to director Bob Clark. Who would have thought the one to have brought to filmdom the likes of the 'Porky's' movies and 'Rhinestone' could bring a holiday classic to life? Well, Bob brings all the comical traditions and anxiety of the holiday to this one. It's also a fine edge that his movie successfully walks with its jaded take on holiday commercialism and not lose its sentiment. His attention to detail of the time and characters portrayed are spot on. But, that should not surprise those who know he's the same director for such underrated fare like the suspense classic "Black Christmas" and the drama "Murder by Decree"--other favorites of mine.
When this movie was first released on DVD in 1999 by Warner Studios, it was a bare bones package. However, the studio rectified that this past October by producing the 20th anniversary special edition of the film. You now get a beautiful picture, in both full and widescreen editions, an insightful commentary track by Clark and Billingsley, and a second disc loaded with other fun stuff that collectors and fans are sure to enjoy.
While it wasn't a commercial success when it opened in theaters around November 1983, like another great holiday film (IaWL), later repeated TV viewings brought it deserved recognition. From its heap of quotable lines to its identifiable family quirks and seasonal habitude, it has much to relate to. Certainly, with this film, its easy to recount the Ralph in me (then at that age) and the Old Man (me now with my family) and to treasure all of it. And, it's that resonance, in my opinion, that makes it Bob's best.
on December 2, 2003
Released this fall, the "Christmas Story" collector's edition is really a 20th anniversary version of the classic. First, let me say I can't believe it's been out for 20 years. I thought 12, at the most 15. Wow.
Briefly, for readers who may not be intimately acquainted with the film, I strongly encourage you to purchase "A Christmas Story" and make it a regular part of your holiday routine. It will grow on you with each viewing and you'll soon find its one-liners making their way into your everyday vernacular. Which version should you get? That's why you're reading this review.
The original DVD release of "A Christmas Story" had no extra features. Nothing. No commentaries, no interviews, no documentaries. Just the movie. This was greatly disappointing, since I'm a big fan and was interested in the making of the film, what the actors are doing now, etc. So naturally I was looking forward to this special edition.
Well, I can't say I'm too satisfied with the reissue.
1. The documentary is very uninformative. The one positive aspect of it is the simple fun of seeing the actors all grown up. Ralphie is 30 now, but looks about the same. Flick has changed more in his appearance and his career choices. (Career choices? You'll have to look that up yourself. It's not on the DVD and I'm not about to ruin Christmas for you.) There just isn't that much to glean about the movie from the special features. If you would like to know what Ralphie wanted for Christmas when he was 10, or what the worst Christmas present Schwartz ever got was, then you'll likely be absorbed. I wasn't. What could've been an in-depth look at the making of this low-budget masterpiece, intermingled with musings from the actors turned into a Nickelodeon-style "what's your favorite color" type of Q&A session. What was particularly annoying was the graphics and sound effects that the editors added (e.g., if Ralphie says "my mom put her foot down," there's a big crashing sound with a monolithic stone foot superimposed over him. Just stupid). Bottom line, it's good for the serious fan who wants a peek at the grown up kids, but beyond that it's useless.
2. The other "special features" are even more lame. There's a trivia challenge (yawn), a decoder game where you match the dialogue from the scene, a history of the daisy rider BB gun, and the original radio readings from Jean Shepherd (the narrator). You might do these once, but it's nothing worth buying the DVD for.
3. The one bright spot is the commentary, and if there's a reason to buy the special edition, it's this. The director (Bob Clark) and Ralphie (Peter Billingsly) do provide some more insight into the making of the film, and if you're the type that enjoys commentaries, you'll find it's worth it.
4. Lastly, I don't think the film was restored in any way. We're talking 20 years here. The film was pretty marked up and I was disappointed they didn't go to any effort to fix it in the 20th anniversary edition. For those of you that don't know (and don't worry, I'll spare you the 1000 word treatise on the mechanics of film that another reviewer felt the need to share), artists go into the original film and frame by frame they remove specks of dust and dirt, and in some cases they even add paint to touch up obvious artifacts. This apparently didn't occur in "A Christmas Story" and it badly needed it. This would've gone a long way to help the value of this DVD set.
So what's the bottom line? If you intensely love this movie and have for years, then buy the DVD. It will be worth it. But if you're on the fence, maybe you've already got the first issue of the DVD, maybe you throw it in during the holidays, then save your money. And if you're just getting into the movie and don't yet own a copy, well, you should probably get the reissue since we're only talking about a few dollars in price difference.
This review applies mostly to readers who already have the first release and are considering getting the new version. If the features I mentioned appeal to you, then go for it. Otherwise, you might be better off just sticking with the original release and using your 20 bucks to get the "Christmas Vacation" reissue, which actually is worth it.
on October 27, 2003
When A Christmas Story, was released in 1983, it wasn't really considered anything "special". It was only after showing up on cable and home video, that the film found its success, and is now called a classic.
In 1940's Indiana, nine year old "Ralphie" (Peter Billingsley), wants the ultimate Christmas present this year: "a genuine Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle". When his Mom (Melinda Dillon) and Dad (Darren McGavin) say no to the idea, for fear that he'll "shoot his eye out". Ralphie decides to start a full on assualt campaign to beg Santa for it.
Based on the novel by Jean Shepherd, director/co-writer Bob Clark, captures the time period perfectly. As the adult Ralphie narrator, Shepherd is also pitch perfect, and adds a unique point of reference as the book's author. Billingsley is great here. His obsession as Ralphie is like every child's at Christmas. We all had that must have toy at some point growing up. The film also is a satiracal look at how commerce and cynacism can be used in a movie like this, with funny results.
After a very long wait, A Christmas Story, finally gets upgraded on DVD. The 2 disc set has some enjoyable bonus features, and makes this vastly improved over the movie only DVD, released a few years ago. The audio commentary by Clark, actors Billingsley, and Dillion, is very well done and worth a listen.
The second disc has a retrospective documentary, narrated by Billingsley, called Another Christmas Story. Some info from the audio track is repeated but it's stll fun to see what Billingsley looks like as an adult. You can also hear original radio readings by author Jean Shepherd, see two additional featurettes called "Get a Leg Up" and "A History of The Daisy Red Ryder", play both the "Triple Dog Dare" interactive triva and "Decoder match challenge" games. The theatical trailer and easter eggs top off the extras. Viewers can watch the all new digital transfer of the film itself, in either fullscreen or widescreen anamorphic (Finally) formats.
I am pretty cynical when it comes to Christmas films and the holidays in general (which explains why I chose to review this DVD set around Holloween). I can't stand anything too sappy or overwrougt with melodrama. A Chrstmas Story steers pretty clear of that kind of stuff and goes for the laughs instead. You will have a good time with this recommended set, especially if you are a fan of the film, like me.