Of the conutless holiday films in existence, none is as endearing as “A Christmas Story.” Largely, the overwhelming adoration of this derives from the charming, innocent narrator, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley, narrated by Jean Shepherd). It’s a comedic tale told from the perspective of a 9 year old kid, and manages to teleport audiences back to their childhood. Adorable, riotously funny, and brilliantly narrated, “A Christmas Story” is clearly a Christmas classic.
Protagonist Ralphie Parker is 9 years old, and all he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun. Unfortunately, the adults in his life deem this a questionable choice, warning “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Among the naysayers are his mother (Melinda Dillon), a mall Santa, and his teacher, Miss Shields (Tedde Moore). Much of the film revolves around Ralphie’s quest to receive the longed for air rifle, despite the ominous warnings of those around him.
However, what makes “A Christmas Story” so delightful is the expansion of the narrative beyond the central plot, and the believably humble characters. Mr. Parker (Darren McGavin) is dubbed “The Old Man,” and his relationship with Ralphie is demonstrated rather than merely explained. He’s a caring father, with minor, and usually entertaining flaws. The Old Man curses like a sailor, particularly when fighting with the family’s furnace. There’s a side story with a leg lamp in a contest, a source of contention between the Parker parents. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie finds Ralphie with his tongue frozen to a pole, a predicament many adults can commiserate with.
The natural charisma of “A Christmas Story” makes this holiday classic sparkle with a magical spirit. Ralphie brings out the inner kid in each of us, the one that never quite dissipates. A Child’s perspective is arguably the most difficult to emulate, and it’s remarkable how convincing the story-telling feels. The innate innocence and perpetual bewilderment recalls the excitement of racing downstairs on Christmas morning. Bob Clark’s masterful film time warps the viewer to a simpler time, with ample relatable moments. The nostalgia seeps in, making “A Christmas Story” a true masterpiece. With the countless traditions, both standard and dysfunctional, the Parker family embodies the holiday spirit, popping off the screen like a real clan. Charming, realistically funny, and uplifting, it’s a non-traditional Christmas flick reminiscent of actual holidays, and mandatory fare each December.