The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

A New ben’s TEN Series

Get the Scoop You Won’t Find Anywhere Else on 12 Christmas Movies Old and New
[See complete list of reviews]

A Christmas Story (1983)
Directed by Bob Clark
Rated PG
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Darren McGavin

Review by Jeff Koch

Conventional Synopsis:
In this holiday fable set in 1940s Indiana, all Ralphie Parker wants for Christmas is an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. But all his mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus respond with is “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Dismayed but undeterred, Ralphie launches a full-on assault to obtain the one thing he wants most in this world. Along the way, Ralphie and his family share a very interesting Christmas.

Beneath the Surface:
Perhaps no movie ever better captures the joy, wonder, and even fear of what it’s like to be a kid at Christmas. From the longing for a single gift so badly that it fills up your imagination, to the humiliation of an odd Aunt’s Christmas outfit for you, the movie perfectly distills the essence of Christmas through the eyes of a child. Even better, it’s told from the perspective of the child grown up, with knowing winks to the adults in the audience, laughing at the eerie similarities to their own childhood Christmases. Who hasn’t secretly feared sitting on Santa’s lap in the mall? Who doesn’t remember their father’s mastery of foul language? And who hasn’t wanted a gift so bad as to plot out weeks in advance the perfect plan to implant the idea in their unwitting parents’ mind?

The movie also gets everything right about family, and their importance–for better or worse–in our life, especially during the holidays. As much as the movie is about Ralphie’s quest for the most perfect gift ever, it’s also about Ralphie’s growing understanding and love for his family. When he gets in a fight at school and beats up another kid, rather than punishing him and telling his father, Ralphie’s mom soothes him and downplays the incident to dad, strengthening the Mother-Son relationship. After all the presents have been opened and no Red Ryder Air Rifle is to be found, “The Old Man” has a trick up his sleeve, showing Ralphie where his last present is hidden. He knows just what the boy wants, and knows just what an 8-year old boy needs, even if he might shoot his eye out. And finally, when some neighborhood dogs ruin their perfect turkey dinner on Christmas, the whole family gets dressed up and heads out to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate. The enduringimage of the movie isn’t of Ralphie and his gun; it’s of the family sitting at a table in an empty Chinese restaurant, laughing as the waiters sing Christmas Carols in broken English and the chef brings out a baked duck with the head still on, which he promptly chops off.

Ralphie’s Christmas may have began with the perfect gift, but it ended perfectly with what mattered most: his family.

Ratings

Cocoa Factor = 9 out of 10
How good is this one for cozying up with a fire burning, a hot beverage of your choice, and your new Snuggy?

Magicality = 10 out of 10
How well does this one transport you back to the timeless wonderment beyond rationality when Christmas enveloped you in magic? AKA “The Santa Clause factor.”

A Date with Grandma and Aunt Bernice = 10 out of 10
How appropriate/awkward is this one to watch with relatives of all ages? Will hot kissing scenes or male rear nudity spoil the mood?

Tiny Tim’s Big Truths = 8 out of 10
From the mouths of babes come life’s most profound lessons. At the heart of this flick, how authentic, heartfelt and lasting is the message? Does it transcend Xmas clichés and ring bells?

Overall = 9 out of 10

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About bensten

Teacher, writer, blogger and spiritual practitioner. Managing editor of bensten.wordpress.com.

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