"I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!"
A Christmas Story is one of cinema's most superb Christmas movies: a film that children and parents alike frequently watch towards the end of December each year. All and sundry can recall a Christmas movie that possesses a special place in their heart. A Christmas Story is a heart-warming and charming tale that is commonly held in high regard. This film is for both the children and adults because it's something both generations can relate to. While kids will enjoy the Christmas flavour of this saga, the adults will find a deeper experience due to the nostalgia and realism. For many families and cinema buffs, this is traditional viewing every year when the holiday season kicks in.
A Christmas Story is told in a series of flashbacks as we examine the lead up to Christmas from the perspective of little Ralphie Parker (Billingsley) who lives with his typical suburban middle class family in a small town during the 1940s. The only thing Ralphie wants for Christmas is (as he affectionately describes it) the "Holy Grail of Christmas gifts - The Red Ryder 200-shot, Range Model air rifle". However, Ralphie's mother is not pleased with the choice and does not wish to give her son a BB gun for Christmas in fear he will "shoot his eye out" (a recurring phrase spoken by several characters).
The film is about something much more than just a BB gun. A Christmas Story looks at a young boy's perspective on the world in the lead up to Christmas with the BB gun as a mere centrepiece. The saga is narrated by an older version of Ralphie (Shepard, who also wrote the short stories on which the film is based) whose lines of narration are filled with nostalgia as he reminisces about his childhood. The movie is made up of several short vignettes. Each vignette represents a different aspect of Christmas. Basically everything that one would remember about the holiday season is lovingly recreated: meeting Santa at a department store, the socks you receive as a present but never wanted, and so much more. Of course, a lot of these vignettes represent purely American traditions around Christmas time. Those viewers who do not reside in America (like myself) won't be able to relate to the cold weather, the snow or the craze with BB guns among many other things. This does not affect the film's overall value, but it's worth noting.
The characters are of course played to absolute perfection. Young Peter Billingsley is wonderful: not only is Billingsley adorable and cuddly but the very picture of childhood innocence. The actor was at an extremely young age when the camera started rolling. Although still an infant, his acting skills are definitely above average. Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin are accurate portraits of your standard parent figures. Ian Petrella is dead-on as Ralphie's younger brother: similar to Billingsley he acts like an average child you'd expect to find looming around a toy store. The whole film is lovingly stitched together with the warm narration from Jean Shepard.
A Christmas Story embodies all the qualities of Christmas season from the perspective of an infant. Christmas time will always be the centre of every child's universe; it's the day of the year every kid waits for. The nostalgia of being a child is perfectly portrayed with this sublime movie. It's corny beyond all belief and sometimes fairly predictable (the only aspect in which the film is flawed), but on the contrary the film is exceedingly heart-warming and brilliant. Never before or since has a movie been able to accurately capture the nostalgic flavour of the Christmas season. For many families it will always be tradition to watch it on Christmas Eve.