What child can’t relate to the problem posed in A Christmas Story: Ralphie Parker wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas yet all the adults around him tell him the same thing: he’ll shoot his eye out. Undeterred, Raphie commits himself to the quest of getting his beloved present despite life tossing numerous obstacles and distractions in his path.
This movie has become a classic for a very simple reason: most of us have been there. I don’t know how different it is here in the future. A Christmas Story transports us back to when there was no Toy ‘R’ Us franchise dotting the landscape. No…the grail was the Sears Christmas Catalog, and Mecca was any and every well-stocked department store.
It’s in this post-Walton but pre-space age that Raphie finds himself trying with every calculated kid method of influence to acquire the epitome of gifts, his much longed for BB gun. (I didn’t long as much being that my grandfather gave me an old one that I was very desirous of–which I still have even though the aged seals have long since rendered it useless. Never underestimate the pull of a BB gun for a young boy.)
In the midst of Ralphie’s machinations, we also get the joy of his father, played with gusto by Darren McGavin. At least as many, if not more, of the most quoted lines from the movie come from “The Old Man”: “Bumpuses!!!” “Notafinga!!!” “Fra-gee-lay…”
Of course, Ralphie’s mother is not to be taken lightly, either. Not only does she serve as the perfect foil for “The Old Man”, but she’s the mother many can relate to (at least those of us who remember when moms stayed at home): she’s alternately vexing (as when she puts so many layers of winter gear on Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, that he can barely move) and endearing (when she sticks up for Ralphie after his bully-beating, profanity-filled meltdown).
Still, the star of the film is unquestionably Jean Shepherd who not only wrote the semi-autobiographical short stories on which the film was based, and who co-wrote the screenplay, but was the voice of the adult Ralphie (as narrator). Without Jean, this pig don’t fly. The recollections of Adult Ralphie combined with “what really happened” weave such a complete tapestry that both kids and adults easily relate to everything that’s happening.
Classics become classics for a reason: they balance story, characters, dialog, time & place, and myriad other details into a viscerally relatable story. I’d be hard-pressed to find fault with any part of A Christmas Story, and I have absolutely no intent to try. It’s simple one of the best expressions of being a kid at Christmas that we’ve been given in the movies. If you only see a handful of holiday movies in your life, this needs to be one of them.
A bit of trivia via Wikipedia:
The Red Ryder BB gun was prominently featured in A Christmas Story, in which the main character requests one for Christmas, but is repeatedly rebuffed with the warning “You’ll shoot your eye out”. The movie’s fictional BB gun, described as the “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time”, does not correspond to any model in existence nor even a prototype; the Red Ryder featured in the movie was specially made to match author Jean Shepherd’s story (which may be artistic license, but was the configuration Shepherd claimed to remember). However, the “Buck Jones” Daisy air rifle, immediately above the Red Ryder in the Daisy line, did have a compass and sundial in the stock, but no other features of the “Red Ryder” model.
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For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies