Director: Bob Clark
Writers: Bob Clark, Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown
Cast: Peter Billingsley
A Christmas Story is my boyfriend’s favorite Christmas movie. Beginning on December 1st he began to say that he wanted us to watch it together. Finally, nearly four weeks later, just after Christmas we finally did. My stepsister had attempted to have me watch it last year, unsuccessfully, when my brother-in-law and I decided to watch Django Unchained and Reservoir Dogs again instead. Why watch a Christmas movie when you can have a very Tarantino Christmas instead? Ooh, a Quentin Tarantino Christmas movie. Now that’s something I could get behind! I am digressing and getting off track, point is, somehow I have made it well into my 30s without ever seeing this movie many consider to be required viewing during the holidays, but now I have. Satisfied? Let’s keep going.
If someone told me that the dude who had directed the original Black Christmas, Porky’s and its sequel had also directed a children’s holiday film I would have called them a liar. But he did (as well as two Baby Geniuses movies, which has nothing to do with anything, other than the fact that they are two of the worst movies of all times, even according to iMDB and I find that funny). The one thing those first few movies and A Christmas Story have in common is the somewhat strident, histrionic tone throughout. That’s the one thing that gave me so much pause throughout the movie – what is otherwise an innocuous and gentile movie for children, is permeated by so much screaming, horror-esque imagery, and perverse danger that I found the movie to be quite disquieting. I didn’t dislike the movie, but it’s not a cute one, and I don’t understand how it can give so many people warm, nostalgic feelings. It was nearly nightmare inducing at times.
Peter Billingsley plays Ralphie Parker, a kid who wants an air rifle for Christmas at all costs. In spite of the fact that every single adult, including parents, teachers, and even Santa Claus telling him that he would shoot his eye out, young Ralphie marches on undeterred. Meanwhile he and his hapless brother and friends are hounded by a grotesque bully, a teacher who would make the evening news for crimes against children, and countless other dangerous adults and fiends behind every corner. The film is a bit overwhelming in its violence and bad behavior, never condemning, or even acknowledging, the fact that adults treat children in abusive ways (the Santa scene at the mall is just as horrifying as the tunnel scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).
Ultimately the movie is a somewhat feel good movie about family I guess, right? I don’t know. I really tried to see the appeal, and I could understand if it was a cult movie of sorts, with an underground fandom that felt subversively in regards to the holiday season. But this is not that! The movie is beloved as a Christmas classic, a feel-good movie that inspires love and tenderness. What did I just watch? Someone care to explain it to me? Maybe I just didn’t get it.
Happy Holidays… ???