Ralphie Get Your Gun

The question is “What do you want for Christmas?”

In “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie (Peter Bilingsley), the beguiling boy hero, knows well what he automatically wants: an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!

His mother’s classic comeback: “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.”

Ha.

“A Christmas Story,” which I just saw this year, is now one of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s a rare treat that’s more inspired than inspiring. It’s less about freeing the Holiday spirit and more interested in capturing the human way of life. Its events are surprisingly more familiar than typically miraculous. In short, this is the Christmas I grew to know, but I just never saw it in a movie until now.

Let me take the praise even further. “A Christmas Story” is probably the most insightful film I’ve seen about being a kid. Of course, I’m nothing like Ralphie and I didn’t grow up in the American Midwest decades ago. Yet, I can’t help but relate to his frustrations during the Holidays and beyond. His relationships with his parents, sibling, friends, enemies, and teacher are not only adeptly incorporated; they touch upon the realities of life with sneaky humor. It is really what makes the film so fantastic. However, despite capturing bits of reality, the film is not quite realistic. It’s noticeably weird in tone and some characters come across as cartoons. But that’s what makes the movie strangely more delightful and endearing.

There’s no doubt too that “A Christmas Story” is a genuine classic. Even if times have changed, this film is still wonderfully entertaining. I think youngsters are more easily spoiled these days and I think they make lousy and insufferable characters. Ralphie, on the other hand, grew up at an interesting time when kids develop cunning. Getting what you want comes down to a science. The subtle art of suggestion becomes the skill to master. I think all these strategic struggles are what make Ralphie somebody to root for. He works and thinks so hard about that dandy rifle.

The irony is that as much as Ralphie dreams of the toy gun, he already has the best plaything a kid could have: imagination. Too corny, you say? If you watch the movie closely, his imagination is what cheers him up, comforts him, and carries him through tough times. The imaginary what-if scenarios are not only affecting but also hilarious. A great example is the fantasy sequence where he saves his family from bad guys, solely thanks to the official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. Ha. The movie has a couple more scenes of fancy I won’t spoil. I’ll just comment on their effectiveness and its precision in depicting a kid’s psyche. It really took me back to being a kid. Indeed, I consider “A Christmas Story” an early Christmas gift to myself. It’s weird, wonderful, captivating, and hilarious. Plus, it didn’t shoot my eye out. Mother would definitely approve.

Grade: A+

CAST
Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, and Tedde Moore
Based on the novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by
Jean Shepherd
Screenplay by
Jean Shepherd
Leigh Brown
Bob Clark
Directed by
Bob Clark
Rated PG uhm… fudge
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