Written by Megan LaBruna
You can’t possibly make it through December without seeing A Christmas Story playing at least once on cable. It is literally impossible. Perhaps what makes A Christmas Story such a popular film is that it shows the messy, foul mouthed, realistic side of the chaos that defines the holiday season. The movie, narrated by an older version of the main character, Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), focuses mostly on his family, The Parkers, around Christmas time in the 1940’s. I have to confess, I have never once seen this movie from beginning to end. It’s something I pride myself on. I know the movie inside and out, I have watched every scene multiple times, but I’ve never actually sat and viewed it in chronological order which I can thank TBS’ 24 hour marathon for.
The overall plot centers around the one thing Ralphie wants for Christmas: A Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. This kid lives, dreams and breaths this gift. Yet he is constantly reminded by his mother and even the mall Santa that he’ll shoot his eye out with the BB gun.
While there are so many things I could mention about this movie, I don’t have the time or the space to write it all. Instead I’ve decided to condense it down to the most important subplots. That way at least if you’ve never seen it, you can fake it until you actually watch it, which you should totally do since it plays for TWENTY FOUR HOURS STRAIGHT. One of the first scenes of the film and one of my favorites involves Flick (Scott Schwartz) a friend of Ralphie’s being triple dog dared to lick a pole in the freezing cold. His tongue gets stuck, he freaks out and everyone leaves him outside on the playground to freeze to death until the teacher notices he’s missing and calls for help.
Any scene with Ralphie’s kid brother Randy (Ian Petrella) is a must see in my book. I love this character so much, because his scenes are so true to life regardless of what decade this takes place in. His mother gets him into this elaborate snowsuit and then of course he has to go potty. He then gets bundled up again, waddles outside and falls on the ground. The result is pretty similar to what it’s like to see a turtle fall shell side down. The poor kid can’t even move to get up, it gets me every time!
Of course there’s the classic bunny pajamas from Aunt Clara and the time Ralphie didn’t say FUDGE, but said the real “F-dash dash dash” word instead, resulting in a bar of soap in the mouth. But, the best subplot, in my opinion, belongs to the leg lamp.
Ralphie’s father is notified that he has won a major award, but when the box arrives, it ends up being a lamp in which the base is a woman’s leg with fishnet stockings that lights up and is adorned with a fringe lined lampshade. It is equal parts gaudy and crude, but mostly just tacky and quickly becomes his father’s favorite piece of decor. If you need a good one liner from this movie, this is the scene to quote. “Fra-GEE-leh! It must be Italian!”
There’s a bully with yellow eyes who gets what he deserves, an “accident” involving the leg lamp, and an anticlimactic decoded message from “Little Orphan Annie” that can be ranked as honorable mention scenes, but A Christmas Story all truly boils down to one Christmas wish from a boy who just wants his Red Ryder rifle.
Christmas day comes about and Ralphie thinks he didn’t get rifle, until his parents surprise him with one last gift. The glorious rifle he had been wanting. He goes outside and fires it for the first time, only to have the incessant warnings of his mother and Santa come true. He shoots his eye out! Just kidding, in reality the BB just hits his face and knocks his glasses off, which he then steps on and breaks. Not willing to let his mom know she was right, he does what all kids do in a similar situation. He comes up with an elaborate lie.
The Parker family’s Christmas night doesn’t go any smoother. Their dog eats the Christmas turkey and the family ends up eating dinner at the only place open on Christmas day… a Chinese restaurant. Their day isn’t perfect, their family isn’t perfect, but they’re all together for the holiday and they manage to have a great time anyways, and that’s the true moral of their Christmas story. Well that and if you wish really hard you may just get that Red Ryder rifle you wished for…just don’t shoot your eye out!