A CHRISTMAS STORY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Peter Billingsley,
Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
Director: Bob Clark
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: November 11, 2008
BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE.
A Christmas Story. What can be said about it that hasn’t been said before? What can I possibly add to the decades of accolades accrued by one of the true genuine classic films of our time? What points could I make about a movie that has become such a holiday tradition for so many families that one cable network actually shows it for 24 hours straight every December?
This is one of those films that meets the definition of a classic not because of its age, but because of the place in all of our collective hearts and memories that it instinctively touches. Even if Christmas growing up for me wasn’t really like what we see in the Parker household, what it misses in literal truth it more than makes up for in nostalgic truth.
No, I didn’t listen to radio programs, walk to school in the snow, or live in fear of a bad furnace or electrical wiring that threatened to burn me alive in my bed. I never wanted a BB gun. I didn’t even have a kid brother or stairs to come clomping down on Christmas morning. But none of that matters. In Ralph Parker (Billingsley), we have an Everykid, someone we can identify with, and someone who makes us think of all the warm happy memories we had of Christmas growing up. Our memories aren’t his, but that doesn’t matter. This wonderful movie has all the magic of a shared experience; we bring our own memories to the table in our own minds.
The story, based on the immortal works of Jean Shepherd (who narrates), is all about a boy and his ideal Christmas gift…the elusive Red Ryder BB gun that every grownup says will result in the loss of an eye. Ah, parents. But that doesn’t stop young Ralphie from trying everything he knows!
It’s both timeless and wonderfully old-fashioned…the story takes place much longer ago than my own youth, but it always makes me think of my Christmases growing up. After all, in my day, we still had long lines to see Santa Claus, school bullies, getting our mouths washed out with soap and more. We even had Ovaltine.
This movie has remained an endearing favorite because it speaks to all of us and our yearning for those classic carefree times gone by and that favorite gift that would earn the place in our memories as our greatest Christmas gift ever. But also because it’s so darned funny. Ralphie saying the “fudge” word, the nightmare with the department store Santa, the “Scut Farkas” incident…even poor Ralphie losing his innocence at nine years old. No, I mean when he finds out that companies will sneak commercials even into children’s toys…get your mind out of Cosmopolitan magazine.
“Timeless” and “classic” are terms that are bandied about too loosely, so I’ll close with a less used but far more appropriate accolade. A Christmas Story is a perfect movie.
The high definition presentation is a real treat, particularly the gorgeous outdoor settings with sunlight and crystalline snow. Interiors offer more detail in the foreground and background than ever before. I’ve seen the movie countless times, and I never noticed before that Flick is drooling when he has his tongue taped up! There is some softness here and there, and some grain noticeable in darker segments, particularly in the changing of the tire. But overall, it’s a crisp, detailed and vivid presentation.
The mono audio is perfectly serviceable…dialogue is clean and clear, though dynamic range is minimal.
The disc includes a commentary track from Peter Billingsley and the late Bob Clark, plus a 20th anniversary retrospective with Peter and some of the other kids in the movie, script pages that weren’t used, a trailer, and featurettes on Red Ryder and an amusing ordering promo for the leg lamp. The limited edition packaging is also quite cool…it comes in a lovely cookie tin, and includes a string of Christmas tree lights shaped like the notorious leg lamp!
What holiday season would be complete with A Christmas Story? Retire your old copy and forget the cable broadcasts with crummy commercials and enjoy this wonderful, magical treat on high definition Blu-ray with your entire family.