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Cult Classic Review: ‘A Christmas Story’ brings a child’s fantasy to life

In

“I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle,” said Ralphie again and again. And again.

All children want one present for Christmas that would change their entire lives and make them the coolest kid on the block. In “A Christmas Story,” a 1983 film about a young boy in the 1940s, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) must convince the rest of the world that a Red Ryder BB gun is the perfect gift for him. He is met with extreme opposition.

“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” they all say.

Even Santa Claus, the man who is supposed to be on every kid’s side, thinks it’s a joke, and with a big “Ho-ho-ho” shoves Ralphie down a massive exit slide.

When Ralphie writes a report about the one thing he desperately wants for Christmas, the BB gun, his teacher gives him a C+ and once again he is made aware of the possibility of shooting his eye out. During this scene, he imagines his teacher is the Wicked Witch of the West, which adds a funny, overdramatic, childlike imagination to the action.

God forbid Ralphie actually tell his mother and father that he wants a BB gun. Instead, he hints at it by leaving little clues around the house. At one point, he even places a Red Ryder air rifle ad in his mother’s magazine so she’ll see it.

Unlike many films that are subjectively told through the child, Ralphie’s adult voice is constantly commenting on the action through sharing inside thoughts we otherwise would not know.

The film is based on several short stories that first appeared in Playboy magazine in the 1960s. The author, Jean Shepherd, later shared his stories on his WOR talk radio show from New York. Shepherd went on to co-write the film script and narrate the voice of adult Ralphie.

One of the classic scenes is when Ralphie’s father, the Old Man (Darin McGavin) wins a “Major Prize.” He jumps for joy and screams throughout the house that he won, only to find out what his prize is later that evening. He won a large lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg, with fishnet hose and proudly displays it in the front window of his residential house.

On Christmas Day, Ralphie opens a package from one of his aunts. It is the kind of package every kid is aware of, but no one appreciates. He opens it, only to find pajamas that make him look like a pink bunny rabbit, complete with long ears. When Ralphie comes down the stairs wearing this, it is priceless. It’s hard not to feel pity for the poor kid.

His mother thinks he is the cutest little thing, while his father says, “You look like a deranged Easter bunny.” His little brother just laughs.

After Ralphie and his brother opened all of their presents, Ralphie is bummed. He didn’t get a BB gun. Then, his father tells him to go see what is behind the desk. Ralphie goes over hesitantly and then finds the one magical package he has been waiting to open. He opens it and pulls out his new Red Ryder Air Rifle.

When he goes outside to shoot it, the BB ricochets off the tree, and comes back and hits him in the eye.

“Oh my God, I shot my eye out!” the adult Ralphie narrates.

“A Christmas Story” is more than just funny stories about a kid growing up. It shows the commercialization of American Christmas and makes viewers wonder what is a reasoning behind Christmas. It shows the bonds made in families, especially between fathers and sons.

At some point or another, everyone has experienced something that happens in “A Christmas Story.” Whether it be getting your tongue stuck to a frozen pole, getting in a fight, saying the “F” word in front of an adult, being scared of your father or actually shooting your eye out, it is a highly relatable story for all generations and a must see film each holiday season.

mshea@unews.com

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