A Christmas Story (1983)

PG, 94 minutes, Comedy

Starring: Peter BillingsleyDarren McGavinMelinda DillonJean Shepherd

I haven’t had cable in a decade. This always sends someone into a fit whenever I say I haven’t seen shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. Maybe I’ll get to them someday, but I just don’t feel the need to bother to wade through a sea of commercial-ridden channels just so I can watch another Golden Girls rerun. So as such I have no idea if TNT or TBS or whoever that once was still has four-day marathons of Randy laying there like a slug (it was his only defense).

A Christmas Story became a tradition for me at a young age thanks to that old TV station marathon. I think my dad liked it, so at some point during the Christmas season, after school had been put on holiday hold and the house became covered in Department 56 ceramic, that old bear of a Zenith television glowed with the reflection of the hopes of one child and yet every child.

In case you haven’t seen it, the story goes a little something like this: Ralphie (Billingsley) sets his eye on a BB gun and begins to plot every possible way to convince those around him that it’s a good idea. Unfortunately every adult he talks to warns him that he’ll shoot his eye out. As Christmas draws closer, Ralphie becomes desperate, focusing on his coiled-steel goal and surviving the hustle of the season.

I haven’t seen every Christmas movie out there, but I get the impression that this is where the season’s commercialism hit cinematic media. Off the top of my head I’m having a hard time coming up with a movie produced before 1983 where an actual product was the focus of the story. I don’t know. There’s probably something out there, but a childish yearning for the Christmas present of the year has been felt for generations. It makes this movie very relatable.

To add interest there are multiple subplots and tons of characters that Ralphie runs into. From bullies on the street and smart aleck classmates to radio programs of the day and Ralphie’s own detailed subconscious, this film works to not only detail the era but to capture the essence of childhood as well. And it works well. No computer graphics needed here, folks. Just a classic Victorian home and the oldest still-mobile Oldsmobile you can find and you’re sent back to a time before technology ruled the Earth and the worst things to happen were really just little things.

I suppose I can’t write about this without mentioning the dang lamp. In its own right that stupid thing has not only become an icon, but also a kitschy marketing ploy so the official producer of the official replica lamp can make an official quick buck. As an element to the story, I enjoy it, but just as the Old Man once did, I think it’s time to lay it to rest and focus on other aspects of perfectly good story… so of course they put it into the sequel…

A Christmas Story is simple in context, yet detailed in approach. It brings back a sense of nostalgia, not necessarily from the ’50s, but from our own childhood frenzied glee. This movie is silly, but so were we all as excitement caused us leap from bed to ravage paper-wrapped boxes. Just ignore how corny it is, because it’s really a Christmas classic.

Rating: Own it.

Watch: Because you were a kid once, too.
Don’t watch: If you’ve already shot your eye out.

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