Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
Director: Bob Clark
Ralphie (Billingsley) is a cute blonde haired, blue eyed kid whose major goal in life is to have a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas that he’s heard all about on his favourite radio show. But since his parents don’t want to give him one, he sets out to find a plan to make sure there is one for him under the tree on Christmas morning.
Set in the 1940’s, but made in the 80’s, this film looks back on another, simpler time, using extensive voice over as the adult Ralphie narrates his memories. Though the young Ralphie is focused on his goal to get his BB gun, the film itself uses that as a structure to hang set pieces on that showcase kids being funny or family being less than perfect.
It’s a pretty sweet film that’s nostalgic, but also able to laugh at the way we often remember the past as being better than it really was. It’s become a perennial Christmas classic that people love, so I added it to my watch list for the year, since I’d never seen it. It’s a funny film, because it’s not really schmaltzy or cheesey in the way that most Christmas films are. It makes fun of the family, rather than aggrandizing it. It pokes holes in the illusions of Santa Clause at the mall and of childhood friendships and dreams. When you’ve seen a lot of Christmas films from the 40’s or from Hollywood’s Golden age, its funny to see a film set in that era that shows a more realistic story and pokes holes in the values that those old films hold so dear. It’s often very funny.
And yet, it’s also a film that knows where the heart is. There are little moments when you know that Ralphie’s family ultimately love each other.
On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of this film, but only for reasons of personal taste. I found the voice over irritating and felt like it was kind of a long film. And since Christmas is the one time of the year that I enjoy a little drama and romance, this film doesn’t hit the spot for me that much. I can’t relate to it a great deal. But I do remember being a kid and wanting some epic, expensive present for Christmas that my parents couldn’t afford or couldn’t give me (like a pony). So all in all, it’s a nice film, and if you’re a bit of a Grinch at Christmas and would like a more realistic, cynical view but one that’s also funny, here is your film.
See It If: A classic and much loved Christmas film, A Christmas Story eschews sentimentality for comedy, one that might please the more cynical watchers in the room.