US Release Date: 11-18-1983
Directed by: Bob Clark
- Melinda Dillon, as
- Mrs. Parker
- Darren McGavin, as
- The Old Man (Mr. Parker)
- Peter Billingsley, as
- Ralphie Parker
- Ian Petrella, as
- Randy Parker
- Scott Schwartz, as
- R.D. Robb, as
- Tedde Moore, as
- Miss Shields
- Yano Anaya, as
- Grover Dill
- Zack Ward as
- Scut Farkus
Ralphie's quest for his ideal Christmas present is the greatest Christmas story ever told.
You may want to argue the point, but A Christmas Story has become the most beloved Christmas movie of all time. It's a Wonderful Life sometimes seems to crawl along. Any version of A Christmas Carol fails because Scrooge still ends up old and, for the most part, alone. Only A Christmas Story takes you on a journey to your youth and keeps you laughing and entertained right up till the very satisfying end.
Brothers, Ralphie and Randy live with their parents somewhere in the Midwest. The father is an excitable type who likes to cuss and fight with the furnace and neighbors. The mom has almost limitless patients, almost. Randy is the little brother who just wants to fit in with his big brother and his friends.
Then there is Ralphie. He is the heart and soul of the movie and represents the very heart and soul of Christmas itself. He wants more than anything to get a genuine Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle for Christmas. His big dilemma is that everyone keeps warning him that "You'll shoot your eye out." Even Santa Claus rains on his parade in one of the funniest Christmas moments ever put on film.
What makes A Christmas Story so classic is that EVERYONE sees themself in Ralphie. In Ralphie's plight we see the very essence of what Christmas is, GETTING PRESENTS! Yes, I know of the Nativity Story and the lesson of "It is better to give than receive", but to a child, Christmas is the one time of year when it is not only okay to be greedy, it is encouraged. As adults we still enjoy the holidays, but for a child, Christmas is literally a magical time. They ask for gifts and then wait for that wondrous morning to see if their dreams have come true. Ralphie's quest takes the adult audience on a nostalgic trip while children easily recognize themselves in him.
A Christmas Story is such a classic holiday movie that it gets shown endlessly on television. One channel shows a marathon of it all Christmas day. The house where the movie was filmed has recently been bought and renovated to look like the movie set. You can take tours. I have seen shirts with the cast on them. I saw ornaments based on the movie for sale in stores. I have even seen the Red Ryder BB Gun for sale. One store was giving a copy of the DVD away with every purchase of the gun.
Like all true classic films, A Christmas Story is packed with memorable lines, "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!" "Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian." " Randy lay there like a slug! It was his only defense!" "Well I double-DOG-dare ya!"
No matter who you are, A Christmas Story is as satisfying as having a warm mug of hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie after a day of sledding down a snow covered hill with family and friends.
The makers of this movie got everything exactly right.
I was 16 years old the Christmas this movie came out. I remember loving it so much that I went to see it again a few weeks later. The makers of this movie got everything exactly right. The actors were born for these roles, the setting perfectly captures small town America in the 1940's, and the funny, poignant script conjures childhood memories we can all relate to.
One of my favorite scenes is where Ralphie beats up the infamous, yellow-eyed bully Skut Farkus. It is a great example of the right blend of humor and realism; which is what the entire movie does flawlessly. Show gut-bustingly funny situations that are also completely believable. We've all experienced them or something very similar, only maybe we didn't laugh when a dog ate our turkey.
Then there is the final scene when the parents are relaxing in front of the Christmas tree after the presents have been opened and the hubbub has ended. Outside it's snowing and all is well with the world. And watching this movie every year gives the distinct feeling that, for a few short hours anyway, it is.
A nostalgia filled, magical memory of Christmas from our childhood.
Christmas is a time for family and while grown-ups can enjoy it, Christmas is most special for children. Unlike It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, whose message is aimed at adults who've lost the Christmas Spirit, A Christmas Story's message is aimed at children and at the child in all of us for whom the Spirit of Christmas is alive and well. As the narrator says of the holiday, "Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved."
It is also an American story. A real slice of Americana as seen through the prism of a young boy's eyes. The year is never given and although there are clues that could be used to pinpoint an exact date, that's really besides the point. Clearly it's around 1940, and that's enough to know. No mention is made of the Depression or the events in Europe that would soon lead to another World War because those things aren't nearly so important to Ralphie as acquiring his Red Ryder BB Gun. It was a simpler, more innocent time in America and one that today has the power to make us feel a nostalgic yearning.
There are also some extremely funny moments and equally funny lines. I love the ongoing war between the mother and father over the lamp and how after the lamp's demise we are told, "Later that night, alone in the backyard, he [Ralphies' dad] buried it next to the garage. Now I could never be sure, but I thought that I heard the sound of 'Taps' being played, gently." And perhaps my favorite line of all, "In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."
The movie ends with Ralphie's line, "The greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive." It's a very true and poignant line. Christmas when you're a child is a magical time and if you're very lucky the memories of those childhood Christmases will stay with you forever. And for those times when those memories seem to fade and blur, you can always watch this movie to help you bring them back into focus again.
Photos © Copyright Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (1983)