Second Opinion: A Christmas Story

Movie Review #925


Nationwide release on November 18, 1983. Re-release on November 21, 1984. Comedy/Family. This film is rated PG. Runs 94 minutes. American-Canadian co-production. Director: Bob Clark. Screenplay: Jean Shepherd & Leigh Brown & Bob Clark. Based on the novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd. Cast: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Scott Schwartz, Tedde Moore, R.D. Robb, Zack Ward, Peter Billingsley, and the voice of Jean Shepherd.


By Alexander Diminiano

The holidays are here, and Ralphie can’t stop thinking about what he wants for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun. He’s 9 years old, and his parents object to the idea, of course. But he wants that gift so badly. He starts imagining how the gun would come in handy, if ever his house were invaded by a (surprisingly large) band of robbers. When he’s given the task of writing about what he wants for Christmas as a classroom assignment, he dreams that his teacher will fall in love with what he has written–and yes, he’s written about that damn BB gun. But his teacher ends up giving him a C+. She writes on the paper a comment that a total of three people will eventually use throughout the movie: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

This is just part of why everyone and their dog acknowledges “A Christmas Story” as such a classic. Whether it even qualifies as such depends on how much interest you take in Ralphie’s imaginative mind. Rarely are movies so candidly, so spiritedly told from the first-person perspective. The movie channels Ralphie’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions as a flashback experienced by an older version of this character, perhaps fifty or sixty years in age.

The movie is a period piece rooted in the 1940’s, but even today, it’s tough to say this isn’t a relatable film. “A Christmas Story” doesn’t just celebrate the joy of the holiday season. It celebrates the familiarity of a typical American family. Maybe you don’t have a father who curses whenever the furnace doesn’t work, but if your dad likes to yell at the microwave when it’s not cooking fast enough, then you’ll still appreciate the inherent familiarity in Darren McGavin’s character. Similarly, maybe you never wanted a Red Ryder BB gun as a kid, but if you ever wanted any present so obsessively as a kid, then you’ll definitely appreciate the authenticity of Peter Billingsley’s timeless character.

If you’re a kid at heart, even slightly, “A Christmas Story” is for you. The only way I can see NOT enjoying it is by taking it too seriously. This is the film that all fun, family-friendly holiday movies should be modeled after. Its point-of-view is divine, heartwarming, and expressive. It’s not one single plot, but a series of anecdotes, jovially packaged, nostalgically wrapped, and lovingly strung with a bow.


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