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 22, 2003
I was really happy to hear they were finally coming out with A Christmas story on DVD. Don't get me wrong, the VHS was good, but DVD's are always much more clear, and you can get really neat special features on them.
When 9-year old Ralphie Parker starts obsessing about a Red Ryder 200 shot range model air rifle around Christmas time, he will come up with any scheme to get his parents to know that he wants that for Christmas. In the way of doing, he must dogde getting in trouble with his parents for saying terrible words, beating up school bullies, and complaining. He must somehow get his teacher to sympathise with his plot too, with a theme for homework, and maybe a little bribe here and there. All these things may lead to Mayhem, but they sure do make a funny story when it comes to getting gifts. Will Ralphie prevail with his dream gift or will Santa smash his hopes? Only Christmas will decide that.
I thought the acting was great, especilly with Ralphies little brother Randy, always being a pushover. I recommend this movie to anyone, but I also recommend the book, "In God We Trust, All others pay cash" by Jean Shepard. Definetely a great addition to your DVD library.
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 20, 2003
Post holiday depression, the syndrome in which we overdose on Christmas cheer only to feel deflated when the tinsel is taken down and the tree is tossed to the curb, was considerably lessened for Cleveland, Ohio residents following yuletide 1982. Santa may have returned to the North Pole, but in the heart of the city, Christmas was extended as Hollywood came to town to make a modestly budgeted comedy titled "A Christmas Story."
As exciting as it was to have a movie made in one's own backyard, there was little to suggest this film would attract much attention beyond the city limits. The film's biggest star, Darren McGavin, was a superb actor but not a box-office name. His star shone brightest on television where he memorably played the hard-boiled private investigator of NBC's 1968-69 series "The Outsider" and ghoul hunting newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak of ABC's "The Night Stalker" (1974-75). The director, Bob Clark, won admirers for his 1975 holiday themed thriller "Black Christmas," but probably lost most of them after he directed "Porky's," the teenage sex comedy that was a big hit with youthful audiences but widely reviled by almost everyone else.
Perhaps because it so superbly applied a modern sensibility to the innocence associated with an earlier era, "A Christmas Story" transcended its generic title and its distributor's indifference to become a modern classic following its release to television and home video. Based on the wryly autobiographical work of humorist Jean Shepherd, "A Christmas Story" is set in the radio days of the Forties before television dulled our imaginations. Young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) hears a commercial for a Red Ryder BB gun and becomes obsessed with receiving one for Christmas. But whenever he expresses his wish to his mother, father, teacher, playmates, even Santa Claus, he hears the same dream crushing pronouncement: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."
"A Christmas Story" succeeds because it's sweet but never cloying. It's grounded in reality yet avoids the cynicism that film-makers usually favor when attempting to avoid sentimentality. Despite scenes reminiscent of one of Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers, the film never idealizes childhood or Christmas, and yet it positively glows with nostalgia. The cast, especially McGavin, is superb, and so is the direction. This film just may have benefitted from Clark's work on "Porky's." If the characters in that sleazy teen comedy were thoroughly despicable, they may have at least helped Clark reign in Billingsley who may have otherwise overdone the cute aspects of his character. Instead, the pint-sized protagonist is wholly believable. There hasn't been a Christmas film of this quality since the 1951 Alastair Sim version of "Scrooge," and "A Christmas Story" can stand alongside the very best of them.
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 13, 2003
Twenty years after its initial release, "A Christmas Story" remains one of the most heartwarming, human and enjoyable Yuletide tales ever. The casting of Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin was truly inspired and are at the heart of this classic. Billingsley's unabashed imagination, his wide-eyed awe of all that goes on around him, his desire to get that beebee gun, and his joyous love of life is one of the best children's performances on celluloid. Melinda Dillon's Mom is a joy to behold---witness how she gets little Randy to eat his mashed potatoes and meatloaf--what a marvelous performance she gives--her love and admiration for her husband and children is evidenced in so many sublte ways and Dillon captures and embodies the wonder of motherhood. McGavin, needless to say, is awesome. Childlike, foul-mouthed, but the biggest kid in the movie. This movie alone shows what an underappreciated and fine actor Mr. McGavin is.
Christmas' true meaning and its simplicity and joy have not been captured any more effectively in this Christmas gem.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas and watch this one every 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.