Thursday, February 3, 2011
CHRISTMAS STORY, A
(November 1983, U.S.)
It's amazing how time can be kind to just about any film. When A CHRISTMAS STORY was released more than twenty-five years ago, it came and went virtually unnoticed, with mixed critical reviews. Today there are many joyous things that can be said about it. It's arguably one of the funniest (THE funniest, in my opinion!) Christmas films ever made, it continues to hold a proud tradition of being broadcasted on TBS for twenty-four hours every year, and how many films do you know that can effectively repeat the line, "You'll shoot your eye out." My son is only five years old, but he already loves the scene where Ralphie's little can't put his arms down because of his overly-heavy winter coat.
What seems most outrageous about this film to me is that it's actually semi-autobiographical, based on the short stories and anecdotes of author Jean Shepherd (who also narrates the voice of Ralphie as an adult). Everyone has their stories of childhood and the crazy adventures of growing up, so perhaps its not such a stretch to see a kid go to amazingly great lengths to secure himself the one and only Christmas present he wants more than anything in the whole world; an official Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and "this thing that tells time". But alas, this quest is harder than one would imagine, especially when everyone around you has conspired to prevent you from having one, claiming that you'll shoot your eye out with it. His parents won't listen. His teacher won't listen. Even the holyest of Holys, Santa Claus, won't listen.
There are several subplots incorporated into the body of the film, based on other separate short stories by Shepherd. The most notable involves the "Old Man's" (Ralphie's father's) winning a "major award". A large crate arrives, and inside is a lamp shaped like a woman's leg wearing a fishnet stocking, much to Ralphie's mother displeasure and the "Old Man's" delight. The "battle of the lamp" escalates until she breaks the lamp, infuriating the "Old Man". The poor guy can't even glue it back together because she's accused of "using up all the glue on purpose!".
As a man who was once a boy who once wanted specific toys more than anything, I can only say that I completely sympathize with little Ralphie. In the 1970s, I wanted, more than anything, an Evel Knevel wind-up motorcycle that sped away on its own after you manually reved it up (those who grew up back in that day will know the toy I'm talking about). I didn't grow up with Christmas, but I lobbyed for this toy for a long time and I'm happy to say that one day my father came home with it. Score!!!
Well, that's it for Christmas titles, for now. I have three more in my film collection and hopefully, maybe, timing will permit me to post them during Christmas 2011. Keep your fingers crossed!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Department store Santa Claus: "What do you want for Christmas, little boy?"
Ralphie as an adult (narrating): "My mind had gone blank! Frantically I tried to remember what it was I wanted! I was blowing it, blowing it!"
Department store elf: "Come on, kid."
Santa: "How about a nice, uh, football?"
Ralphie (narrating): "Football? Football? What's a football? With unconscious will my voice squeaked out 'football'."
Santa: "Okay, get him out of here."
Ralphie (narrating): "A football? Oh no, what was I doing? Wake up, Stupid! Wake up!"
Ralphie (to Santa): "No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!"
Santa: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."