A Christmas Story

Released:  1983

Cast:  Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley

SUMMARY:  In the 1940s, nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) is approaching the Christmas holiday with only one wish in mind:  to receive a Red Ryder BB gun.  Unfortunately, his parents have vetoed the idea, with his mother (Melinda Dillon) proclaiming that Ralphie will “shoot his eye out”.  Ralphie refuses to give up, and begins to think of other ways to ensure that he receives the BB gun.  The next day, Ralphie is on his way to school with his younger brother Randy when he meets up with his friends Flick and Schwartz.  After a heated argument, Schwartz triple-dog-dares Flick to stick his tongue to a flagpole; unable to get out of the dare, Flick obliges, and promptly finds himself stuck to the pole by his tongue.  When the bell rings to start school, the other children leave Flick behind, but the teacher eventually notices that he is missing.  She is also unable to free Flick from the pole, and eventually has to call in both the fire and police departments to detach Flick’s tongue from the pole.  After this is completed, the teacher assigns the students an essay:  they are to write about something they want for Christmas.  Ralphie immediately decides to write about the Red Ryder.  He thinks that if he can write a very movie and convincing essay, his teacher will see the wisdom in giving him the BB gun, and will then be able to convince his parents.  However, when Ralphie gets home he is distracted by his father, who is excitedly worked up after winning a magazine contest.  The prize, delivered later in the evening, is a lamp that looks like  woman’s leg, including a shade that looks like a skirt hem.  Ralphie’s father insists on putting the leg lamp on a table right by the front window, so that all the neighbors can see it.  Mrs. Parker is not so thrilled by the lamp, but her husband ignores her protests.  Ralphie does complete his essay that night, and hands it in the next day with high hopes.

More antics ensue that evening, as the furnace acts up again and Mr. Parker is forced into the basement to try to fix it.  While he is down there, Ralphie sees his mother holding a watering can (the furnace is sending smoke into the kitchen); a few minutes later, a crash is heard.  Both Ralphie and Mr. Parker go to the front room to find that the leg lamp is broken, in what Mrs. Parker claims was an accident.  Mr. Parker later buries the pieces of the lamp in the yard.  In the morning, Ralphie tries to ensure a good grade on his essay by bringing his teacher a larger-than-usual Christmas present.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work:  Ralphie gets a C+ on his paper, with a note telling him that he’ll shoot his eye out.  On the way home, Ralphie is tormented by two neighborhood bullies.  Perhaps angry over his essay grade, Ralphie snaps and beats up both boys.  He later decides that the simplest way to get his BB gun is to ask Santa for it.  When the whole Parker family goes into town to watch the Christmas parade, Ralphie convinces them to visit Santa in a department store.  To his dismay, Santa has the same response as his mother and teacher:  “you’ll shoot your eye out.”  The next day is Christmas, and when Ralphie unwraps his presents the BB gun is not there.  However, hidden away from all the others, his father points out one final present — the coveted Red Ryder (bought over Mrs. Parker’s objections).  Ralphie immediately goes outside with it, but on his first shot the BB rebounds off the metal target and knocks Ralphie’s glasses off.  In searching for them (thinking that maybe he did shoot his eye out), Ralphie breaks his glasses, but is able to successfully lie to his mother about how it happened.  As this is happening, the neighbor’s dogs have gotten into the house and eaten the Christmas feast, so the Parkers have dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  That night, Ralphie goes to sleep with his BB gun right next to him, claiming that it is the best present he ever received.

MY TAKE:  I may be the only person in the world who feels this way, but I was not thrilled by this movie; in fact, I thought it was kind of dumb.  It’s not so much the main plot that I disliked, but the side antics were distracting and frequently ridiculous.  The whole leg lamp thing, which seems to be universally loved, did not seem funny to me.  The thing is hideous, and Mr. Parker is abnormally attached to it.  If I had been Mrs. Parker, and my husband had put the horrible thing where all the neighbors could see it, I would have broken it too.  I thought the tongue-on-flagpole thing was kind of funny, but went on too long.  I have a hard time believing that nobody at the school could think to pour hot water on the tongue/pole, instead of calling in every emergency service in town.  Seriously, what are the police and firemen going to be able to do that normal people aren’t?  However, this movie is probably responsible for teaching generations of kids NOT to stick their tongues to flagpoles, so that’s a plus.  Ultimately, Ralphie does get his rifle, but despite everybody’s surety that he’s going to do grave bodily harm to himself, nobody supervises him when he goes outside to shoot it.  Of course he injures himself, and his mother must be clueless if she thinks the broken glasses were not related to the gun.  She was the one who thought he’d shoot his eye out, for pity’s sake.  As a whole, the movie’s just a little too inane and ridiculous to believe.

RATING:  Dumb.

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