A Christmas Story makes me nostalgic for an era I never even saw
In 1983, the movie A Christmas Story—based partly on stories from Jean Shepherd's semi-autobiographical novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash—was released into the wild. It quickly established itself as one of the most unique Christmas staples out there.
Now, in an era after such things as Ally McBeal and That '70s Show, where fantasy and imagination runs wild and free, the story telling in A Christmas Story may not be as unique as it once was. But that's like calling The Lord of the Rings a horrible cliche because of all the other elf and dwarf fantasy stories that came out afterward.
The movie is set in 1960s Indiana and follows one Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsly) who has one thing he wants for Christmas: an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stalk and this thing which tells time. However every adult he mentions this to—starting with his mother (Melinda Dillon) and even including Santa Claus himself (Jeff Gillen)—keeps getting in the way of his plans with the same argument: "You'll shoot your eye out."
It's like that was something the great adult conspiracy told all its members to say in case anyone ever wanted a BB gun.
And ain't his dad (Darren McGavin) a piece of work?
The movie is largely made up of little micro-adventures, strung together and punctuated with some very interesting sections of Ralphie's very active imagination. The people in Ralphie's life are more caricature than character, but since the whole thing is couched in the narration of a man looking back on his youth (the narrator is voiced by the original author himself, Jean Shepherd) it makes sense for the characters to basically be the embodiment of the classic stereotypes of childhood.
The unique story telling and the silly melodrama can be a bit much for some, but I find them very refreshing.
And how can you watch this movie and not have a flash of nostalgia for your own childhood? I remember freezing my tongue to a pull-up bar in the playground once. I've been vastly disappointed in a product that didn't live up to my expectations like Ralphie and the decoder pin. And I remember bringing in a nice, fresh Christmas tree in the days before we decided to go artificial.
I may not have been alive in the '60s—an era that apparently has a very unique definition of "Major Award"—but after a movie like this, I can't help but feel I may have greatly missed out.
This one gets an 8 / 10.
A Christmas Story is rated PG for a bit of language and one very provocative Major Award.
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