A Christmas Story

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I may be the last person of my generation to see A Christmas Story. I don’t know why it took me so long, but now having seen it, I humbly beseech all of you your forgiveness for not giving this classic a spin long ago.

This little gem of a movie accomplishes the not undifficult feat of presenting a warmhearted Christmas tale through a Normal Rockwell-esque lens without becoming unbearably treacly. Its nostagic adult’s take on child’s-eye view of Christmas is likely to give the most hard-hearted Scrooge a case of the giggles.

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A Christmas Story is partially based on Jean Sheapard‘s semi-autobiographical short story collection entitled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Sheapard also narrates the film as the adult version of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley).

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Ralphie is a boy on a quest, that being to ensure that he receives a Daisy Red Ryder Range Model BB rifle under the Christmas Tree. As probably everyone who has ever had cable television over Christmas must know, every adult with whom he shares this wish simply shakes their head and tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Undaunted by these predictions of ocular destruction, he isn’t above trying any angle he can to make this wish come true.

Before Christmas morning, however, he needs to navigate the common hazards of boyhood, from a father (Darren McGavin) with no talent for home repair and an over-protective mother (Melinda Dillon) to the neighborhood bully and the inevitable, unpleasant consequences of dropping the “F” bomb in front of your parents. He also has to contend with a little brother for whom food serves every purpose but nourishment and his parents’ ever-escalating war over a tacky lamp his father won in a contest.

A Christmas Story isn’t a story in the standard Hollywood plot-driven sense of the word. This movie functions more as a pleasant series of warmly-remembered observations. Even if you did not grow up in the nineteen-fifties, you will still recognize a bit of yourself in Ralphie and identify with the all-consuming nature of his quest for this one gift. For you, it may not have been an air rifle. It could have been GI Joe with Kung-Fu Grip and his shark sled, as it was for me. Maybe things are different these days, when every kid has to have an XBox360. Back in my day (and Ralphie’s), those “gotta have” presents were a lot more individual than they are now.

As well as being warmly, evocatively nostalgic and genuinely funny, A Christmas Story, as Henry Kissinger might say, has the added benefit of being true.

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