Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Christmas Story (1983)

When it's not playing for 24 hours on TNT, A Christmas Story holds a place in my heart as one of my favorite all time Christmas movies. Though filmed in 1983, it somehow captures a spirit of the mythical golden era that the narrator recalls.1 While it follows the story of young Ralphie played by Peter Billingsley, in my mind the real star is the narrator and writer Jean Shepherd. Without Shepherds narration and colorful voice, the movie may have fallen flat, but he's able to convincingly portray the earnest drama of a child's life with the gravitas of a National Geographic narrator and the humor of a puppeteer. Of course, Darren McGavin also has to be commended for his creative and humorous fake swearing throughout the film.

The main crux of the plot is Ralphie's attempt to receive a "Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle" for Christmas only to be thwarted by his mother, his teacher, and the department store Santa, all who warn him that he'll shoot his eye out. His childish ploys to get the BB gun are implemented with the fiendish cunning that only a child would employ.

In the end, my joy over A Christmas Story may be its quotability. My sister and I (among others) could quote this movie forever. It has a number of lines that are both funny in themselves and funny for the scenes they recall. And as quotable as the movie is, it also draws on many humorous visual elements that one simply cannot repeat as quotes.2

A Christmas Story is the kind of film that can be enjoyed by all ages. Its humor works for kids and adults, and is a terrific family film for the Christmas season, rightfully deserving its prominent place on the Turner networks.

Narrator: Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said the word. The big one. The queen-mother of dirty words. The "F-dash-dash-dash" word!

Notes:
1. I think the movie takes place in the 40s, though it seems to draw on cultural elements from the 30s, and a post-war ethic/culture of the 50s.
2. e.g., dressing burglars in stripped suits and placing X's on their eyes with tongues hanging out upon their deaths, and the leg lamp

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