Thursday, December 21, 2006
A Christmas Story (1983).
Since this will be my last post before Christmas, what better time to review this beloved holiday chestnut?
Well, I guess it's beloved by most, but not by me so much. I realize I'm in the distinct minority on this one, so I'm letting you know up front that your mileage may vary with my review.
Anyway, "A Christmas Story," based on a series of semi-autobiographical stories by Jean Shepard, concerns the eventful holiday season of little Raphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) and his quirky midwestern family in the 1940s. All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun, but his mom is afraid he's going to put his eye out with it. The rest of the plot is mainly a series of vignettes involving Ralphie, his family and his friends, all eventually reaffirming the importance of family ties and the holiday spirit.
It's all meant to be heart-warming, and some of it is, but most of it just get bogs down by two crucial flaws in the film. The first is the obnoxiously relentless "quirkiness" of the family, which becomes overbearing at times. And the other flaw is the narration, in which Shepard's florid prose is used to mythologize the smallest moments and invest them with a cloying pretentiousness. This style has been better used elsewhere to better effect (most notably on television in "The Wonder Years" and "The Adventures of Pete and Pete") but is just too much here.
Of course, these things which turn me off to the movie happen to be the biggest draw for its many fans. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Just don't ask me to watch it (again) this year.
"Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian!"
Look for Shepard's cameo as the angry man in line for the mall Santa.
My perennial Christmas favorites tend to lean toward TV rather than the movies, especially the Rankin-Bass specials and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965). Although I didn't discover it until my adulthood, "The Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" (1988) is another favorite.
The official Warner Bros. DVD site.
The house from the movie. Tours available!
Take a Look: