A Christmas Story (1983)

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One of the greatest Christmas movies of the 1980’s features some of the best lines and gags all revolving around a young boy and his dream Christmas gift.

With Christmas around the corner, young Ralphie Parker just wants one thing for Christmas. And that thing is a Red Ryder BB gun. He has done everything to make sure he will get that gift for Christmas, despite his mother telling him that he will “shoot his eye out”. Along the way in an attempt to get his gift, Ralphie deals with the likes of his friend Flick getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole, dealing with bullies, and more chaos.

Ralphie is convinced he might not get his dream gift because everyone from his mother to his teacher say he will “shoot his eye out”. Even a mall Santa Claus tells Ralphie the same thing. However, as Ralphie begins to have more experiences throughout including finally standing up to the bullies, his father getting his prize, only one question truly remains. Will Ralphie get his dream gift of getting his Red Ryder BB gun?

This film, based on a collection of short stories by Jean Shepherd and co-written by his wife and the director of one of the seminal 1980’s teen comedies ever made, Porky’s, is one of best Christmas movies of this generation. The story of a young boy hoping to get a BB gun for Christmas is the primary focus of the film. However, as the film goes on, we get to experience many things as the main character Ralphie, in the midst of hoping to get his dream, has a lot going for him.

Peter Billingsley is perfectly cast as our dreamer, both literally and figuratively. Ralphie endures many experiences throughout the film, from trying to hide a Red Ryder BB gun ad in his mother’s magazine to saying the “mother of all dirty words” by accident when he drops the lugnuts he was holding for his father during a tire change. While the core adult characters are the parents, they are well-played by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin. Dillon is truly the motherly figure while Darren McGavin is perfect as The Old Man, who is seen going crazy every chance he gets. Their comic relief chemistry comes in the form of the “prize” and for those familiar with the film, you know what we mean. The duo would appear in another film together but shared no screen time: Albert Pyun’s take on Captain America in 1990. Dillon played the mother of Cap himself while McGavin played a traitorous general.

The child cast is great in this as well. Alongside Billingsley, Ian Petrella is funny as heck as Ralphie’s little brother Randy, who when is not always whining has one of the funniest laughs in the entire film. This comes especially when he sees Ralphie dressed in the famous pink bunny outfit. Scott Schwartz plays Flick, who gets himself in the worst of situations. Especially the famous tongue to the flagpole gag to becoming another victim of the bully Scut Farkas, played excellently by a debuting Zack Ward. R.D. Robb doesn’t offer much except set up Flick for the inevitable and then finds himself a victim of Scut.

The gags in the film are just classic, from the “prize” to the insane dogs next door as well as Ralphie being forced to wear the pink bunny outfit, a gift from his aunt Clara. Novelist Jean Shepherd narrates the film as an adult Ralphie, which was believed to be an influence on the hit TV show The Wonder Years, as well as making a cameo in the film as he tells Ralphie and Randy where the Santa line begins. And standing next to Shepherd is his wife, co-writer Leigh Brown in the mall sequence.

A Christmas Story is truly a gem of a classic Christmas film. The cast couldn’t be any more perfect and the gags are great, all for a small Midtown Christmas post-Depression. Don’t forget to watch this gem on Christmas Eve for a full 24-hours straight…or you can watch it anytime during the 24 hours.

WFG RATING: A+

A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures production. Director: Bob Clark. Producers: Bob Clark and René Dupont. Writers: Bob Clark and Leigh Brown; based on the novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd. Cinematography: Reginald H. Morris. Editing: Stan Cole.

Cast: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Scott Schwartz, Ian Petrella, Tedde Moore, R.D. Robb, Zack Ward, Yano Anaya, Jeff Gillen, Jean Shepherd.

 

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