Sunday, December 25, 2016

25 Days of Christmas: A CHRISTMAS STORY

Merry Christmas! Welcome back to our 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS series where we have been taking a look at some holiday classics each day in the lead up to...well, today. For our final review in this series, we’ll be looking at the Christmas Day favorite….A CHRISTMAS STORY.

A Christmas Story is the definition of a holiday classic. Directed by Bob Clark, this film plays in America (and likely elsewhere) for the whole 24 hours constituting Christmas Day on TBS. The film stars Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin, and follows the story of a young boy named Ralphie in the 1940s as he deals with various problems that arise during the period immediately preceding Christmas and concluding on Christmas day.

Though this film is unquestionably a classic, it managed to reach that status without being a very good film. On the positive side of the ledger, this film has a biting and interesting comedic style with its use of voice over and the story of this kid who wants a Red Ruder BB gun for Christmas and the problems he encounters as a kid. Everyone can recall the swearing scene and the subsequent soap in mouth moment. Watching the kid so excitedly try to break the code from his favorite radio program only to discover it is an advertisement for Ovaltine is hilarious to this day. No one can forget all the kids and the "triple dog dare" scene of licking a flag pole outdoors in the winter (which, by the way, does not cause the disaster depicted in the film). The scenes with Ralphie in a pink bunny suit or when he encounters Santa at the department store are quintessential Christmas movie moments. It is the ability of this film to have such memorable moments that makes it a holiday staple, and in that way it deserves to be commended.

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie also gives a great child performance. In a film that is kind of goofy, he plays a fairly believable character and pulls off all of the appropriate reactions and emotional moments for the film to succeed. His character is furthered by the voice over by Jean Shepherd which gives the film the biting humor that makes it stick with people.

Other than successfully being memorable and occasionally funny, almost nothing else works. This film was released in 1983 about the 1940s, however the production design feels so shoddy that the film feels like it might have been made in the ‘40s. It just has this look of cheapness that makes the film really uninteresting to look at. I would also note that none of the supporting performances were engaging. Ralphie’s parents, portrayed by Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, are the largest supporting characters but even they don’t amount to much beyond crude caricatures.

What I think is worst about this film is that it has a lot of moments and interesting sketches but it feels like a variety show rather than one movie with a unifying story. You could have told me that these were a bunch of different Saturday Night Live-style sketches featuring a recurring character piled onto one another and I couldn’t refute that after watching it. It is so disjointed and almost none of the actual beats relate to the other moments. This is why almost anyone you ask can talk about a scene in this film but never actually tell you what it’s about. It isn’t about anything! This might lead to some nice causal viewing but is a serious issue as a complete whole.

Overall, A Christmas Story is, and will remain, one of the biggest staples of the Christmas season. It has some really entertaining comedy and great moments. It lacks, however, a well-defined story, good characters, or even a pleasant looking production. A must-see because of its cultural relevance, but a film that you’re best off just watching in non-sequential 10 minute sequences.

Ryan’s Score: 5/10

Thank you for being with us throughout the month! We posted a new Christmas review every day, both old and new, and had a blast doing it! Merry Christmas Readers!

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