The line waiting to see Santa Claus stretched all the way back to Terre Haute. And I was at the end of it.
Length: 1Hr 34
About: Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.
I did not like this movie. Not only was I not aware I was ‘missing out’ on a classic, I still don’t think I was.
This is not to say it’s a badly made film. It’s a solid effort from all involved and I would argue that I was never part of the intended target audience.
What I do admire about the festive offering is its obvious legacy. By being detached from the story, I was able to pick out what perhaps became influential techniques for film makers in the US. The sad part being, I was so detached from the film I was begging for it to be over.
The Naughty List
The ‘fault’ with the movie for me is it’s anecdotal and episodic storytelling. It relies on nostalgia and familiarity to engage the viewer and I felt there was no hook at the beginning.
I’d also say that the film relies on you liking the main character, Ralphie. I struggled to connect with the character and I suspect that is partly down to the film makers choice to have the older counter part narrate throughout the 94 minutes. In defence of the film, I have discovered that I struggle with any format that relies heavily on a narration approach. Rami Malek fronted Mr Robot should be the perfect show for me, but the format means that I’ve never gotten past the first few episodes.
I found myself uncomfortable with the desired gift that is the focus of the film; a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle.
It’s truly a personal thing and a sign that I’m far removed from the time in which the film is made, but in the current climate I struggle to find it cute or charming for the kid to want a gun so badly.
The Nice List (the Legacies)
The Wonder Years is possibly the earliest tv show that makes this style of film making successful. While The Goldberg’s is perhaps the most recent. What makes both of these nostalgic tv shows successful is that they take The Christmas Story’s concept and pace itself through a series. It allows the audience to connect with the characters and stops the story feeling rushed and bloated.
How I Met Your Mother was the show I was reminded of instantly. Perhaps it was initially the adult Ralphie’s voice that reminded me of the long standing comedy show, but it was one scene in particular that stood out for me. Upon helping his father with a tire blowout, Ralphie ends up swearing. “Oh fudge.” Recounts the narrator. “Only the word was not fudge…” which I suspect inspired the use of the word sandwich as a substitute for weed in Josh Radnor’s retelling of his life.
A film I feel is of it’s time and perhaps will have aged better stateside. I’d have liked less narration, but I appreciate the method of film making.