Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
Starring: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz
Looking back on our childhood allows for even the most unlikeable memories to be shaded by nostalgia of a simpler time in our lives. A time when we did not have to pay taxes, rent, or worry about anything else not related to hanging out with friends and receiving everything on your wishlist for Christmas. A Christmas Story invites us to reminisce on one guy’s Christmas experience, which he has never forgotten.
Nine-year-old Ralphia Parker (Peter Billingsley) only wants one thing for Christmas. He would not care for anything else in the world except for the Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. While trying to convince his parents and Santa Clause of this wish, he undergoes several memorable moments in this particularly eventful Christmas season.
As a film cherished by many because they saw it as a kid, watching A Christmas Story for the first time felt intimidating. Its significance began at childhood for others so I wondered what impact it would have on me, and I can gladly say I truly enjoyed the charm this film has. It manages to capture an innocence we had in our childhood we can never get back in adulthood. The film allowed me to reflect on my childhood and the small things I would obsess over receiving during Christmas. For Ralphie the obsession came in the form of an air rifle and for me, nothing brought me more joy than receiving a Gamecube for the first time. Those moments stay with you even if the particular item no longer exists in your possession. A Christmas Story beautifully captures the feeling of anticipation we do not have any more for something so small and relatively inexpensive as adults.
While Ralphie’s pleading for the rifle serves as the main story, the flashbacks in the life of this particular person ventures into looking at other impactful moments of this Christmas season. Many of these moments have permeated popular culture and have sustained a level of prominence I can respect. From the triple dog dare to stick your tongue on a freezing pole to the strange night lamp arriving for Ralphie’s father, these moments have significance and simply add on to the fun of the story.
Fun becomes the operative word for A Christmas Story as it seeks to be just that for its 93-minute runtime. The moments of reflection look like plenty of fun but for the adults in his life, it comes in the form of a complete nightmare. Take the scene where the neighbor’s dogs run wild in Ralphie’s house. As a result of the dogs running loose, they eat the dinner Ralphie’s mother prepared for hours and as a result, they decide to eat a Chinese restaurant for their Christmas dinner. As a kid, it’s the perfect scenario because Chinese food always comes as a treat to American children, but I cannot imagine the outrage of being an adult in this particular scenario. If my neighbor’s dogs ran through my house and ate the food I spent hours making, I would rightfully be infuriated. The way the film plays out further demonstrates the childish perspective of the story seeing it through the eyes of Ralphie. As much as we enjoy the cooking of our parents, getting Chinese food will always be something in the win column.
Portraying the young Ralphie is Peter Billingsley, who had the face everyone thinks of whenever this film gets brought up. The big smile on his young face plasters the posters of this film and has remained one of the more memorable roles for children in the 1980s. Looking back on his past puts us right there with Ralphie, as he represents us experiencing the blissful innocence of our childhood. Ralphie displays the basic selfishness all children have at their age because everything revolves around them getting the gift they want despite their circumstances and the harm it may cause. Nearly every adult tells him not to count on receiving this rifle because he could lose an eye from using it, but he never considers it because of how badly he wants it.
While certainly geared towards children, A Christmas Story remains a fun experience for people of all ages. It allows us to indulge in looking back at our childhood when life came with such ease and things did not have the same complications we must face every day as an adult. Each little vignette has a fun little message embedded about the Christmas spirit and the unbridled joy that comes from reminiscing on our past.