Nine-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants nothing more than a ‘Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle’ for Christmas and he does whatever it takes to convince his parents to buy it for him. In the midst of his pursuit, many other mini-adventures take place such as his parents coming to a difference of opinion when ‘the Old Man’ receives “a Major Award”, Ralphie’s constant battle with the neighbourhood bullies, and the inevitable tearful results of a triple dog dare. Along with many other engrossingly nostalgic tales, A Christmas Story truly is “a Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One Hundred Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Christmas.” – (No, I haven’t turned into a Cowboy. I’m simply quoting the film’s tagline.) It’s fairly easy to predict which films will be gracing our TV screens over the festive period in the UK. It’s A Wonderful Life, Home Alone, and The Snowman are just a few that spring to mind but one notorious movie I haven’t noticed being broadcast over here is A Christmas Story. I think a possible reason as to why it lacks prominence in this country is because it’s not the usual sugar-coated feature we’re used to seeing this time of year. It’s a slice of Americana in its truest, gritty, and darkly funny form. There’s nothing overtly glamorous about it; just a mixed array of loony yet wholesome characters playing out a collection of intriguing anecdotes to a backdrop of post-war suburban America.
The dynamic of Ralphie’s family can, at first glance, seem a very dysfunctional unit. However, as the film goes by we notice that these characters form the archetypal family we’re used to seeing on-screen (and also as a big reminder of ourselves growing up). The father obsessed with fixing dodgy home appliances and cursing through the roof when it’s not going his way, the over-protective mother whose cooking leaves a lot to be desired, and the younger siblings who can’t quite keep up when walking with your friends. There’s many other moments in the film that will transport you back to your childhood whether it is 10 or 60 years ago. There’s so much we can all relate to. For me, the most standout quality of A Christmas Story has to be its dialogue (mainly coming from Ralphie’s lines of monologue) such as “My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master” and “In the heat of a battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan”. It’s dialogue such as this, along with the 1940’s setting, which help me draw comparisons to J.D.Salinger’s classic novel The Catcher In The Rye. With its series of amusingly entertaining short-stories based around a colourful family household, it’s clear to see the mark this film has made on popular culture with obvious influence to TV shows such as The Wonder Years, The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle. If you’re a fan of any of these, I highly recommend watching this film.
It’s a wonderful way to fill your living room with a festive glow, and it’s also a warm reminder of how important Christmas was for us growing up. When the only thing that mattered was opening that Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, that Barbie Malibu Dream House, or that Super Nintendo from under the tree… we’ve all been there. 5 Chinese Turkey’s out of 5 by Simon Garganera Price