It just wouldn’t be the holidays without the marathon showing of the 1983 film “A Christmas Story.” Sure, I could pop the DVD in and watch it anytime I want, but it wouldn’t be the same. Christmas without Ralphie would be like popcorn without butter. Morally wrong.
So I look forward to the seemingly endless airing of “A Christmas Story” today. And here are 10 reasons why:
1. The plot is genius. It’s pretty simple, really, and hilarious. Young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley, who worked steadily throughout his career as an actor since this film, later going into directing with the 2009 comedy “Couples Retreat”) wants nothing more than to get a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range-model air rifle for Christmas. And he tries everything in his danged power to convince all the stuffy adults around him that he is worthy of one – to no avail (“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”).
2. The film is told from Ralphie’s point-of-view. We were all kids once (or still are at heart), and “A Christmas Story” recalls the innocent days of childhood, when a TRIPLE DOG DARE was the ultimate threat. (And you know you always wanted to lick a metal pole in the middle of winter to see if your tongue would stick to it.)
3. There’s no schmaltz. We don’t get a lovey-dovey “message” about the spirit of giving, the true meaning of Christmas, blah, blah, blah. “A Christmas Story” is endearing because it finds the lunacy, peril and beauty in everyday life.
4. The “Major Award.” The leg lamp that The Old Man (Ralphie’s father, whose actual name is never revealed) gets in that giant crate is classic, and his glee with it as he stands in the street to view it through the living room window is nothing less than thrilling.
5. The politically-incorrect chorus at the Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. I know, I know, I shouldn’t laugh. But it’s all in good-natured fun, and it’s just so hysterically funny. That the film gets away with it is part of its charm.
6. The crackling script. There are so many hilarious lines, I’ve found myself quoting them through the years in many situations. “Fra-gee-lay! That must be Italian.” (Jean Shepherd co-wrote the screenplay, based on his books, with Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, who also directed the film and would later go on to direct “Porky’s” — now that’s an about-face).
7. Scut Farkus. Now here’s a rotten villain! His garish raccoon hat might as well be a Darth Vader helmet. But the school bully eventually gets his own, as Ralphie is pushed to the brink and wails into him during a fight.
8. The Ultimate Bad Word. Yes, Ralphie says it, although we hear it as “fudge.” And there’s no other worthy punishment than to suck on a bar of soap for the afternoon. But that’s nothing new to Ralphie: “Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor — heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.”
9. The gift. Leave it to The Old Man to come through. And when he gives Ralphie his gift — the B.B. gun he wanted so badly — we sense some boyhood nostalgia in The Old Man.
10. The warm feeling. The film is ultimately touching because this wacky family is ultimately bound by love. The film celebrates that, as well as celebrating the holidays in all their ridiculous excesses.
As Ralphie says, “Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.”
Yes, indeed. No matter what age you are.