It’s time for a classic Christmas film. Despite it being so classic, I can’t say that I was really familiar with this movie before watching it or that it left much of an impression afterwards. While not quite as interesting as other slice of life comedies of its nature, A Christmas Story doesn’t make too many mistakes. It just hasn’t aged particularly well, but its use of the narrator voice is quite good and I’d like for more films to do it. It could definitely make the kid characters a lot more interesting and while it wouldn’t completely fix my issue with them, it would help quite a lot.
For Christmas Ralph wants a BB gun toy. Unfortunately, his parents do not approve because it is easy to injure yourself with such a dangerous toy so they continually point out that he should just get something plain instead. Ralph decides that he’ll have to convince them somehow, but he must proceed carefully. Luckily, his adult self is here to show us his thought process and maybe this will be enough to get him to claim victory. Hopefully because he is completely sunk otherwise!
I can’t say that I like Ralph, but I do like his adult voice that is used whenever he is thinking. It makes him sound like a good character and it makes him more interesting as well. Unfortunately, the actual Ralph is basically just your average kid and not even a very nice one. He ditches his friends whenever the going gets tough. If a bully shows up, he’ll let his friend take the fall. If one of his friends is stuck to a lamp pole, he’ll pretend not to know about it. That’s just the kind of guy Ralph is and he’s also a chronic liar to boot. He doesn’t have a lot of good qualities and while he is supposed to be endearing, I can’t say that this ever worked.
His parents were a lot more reasonable although they had their flaws too. The Dad enjoyed the sketchy lamp a little too much and I can see why the Mother quickly decided to break it. His attitude towards the neighborhood dogs was also a little iffy and the most dicey part of the film was when he closed the door on one of their ears. It’s meant to be funny, but if you’ve been following my reviews then you’ll realize that it was anything but funny. The Mother opposed the gun plan and I can certainly agree with her on that. Giving Ralph the soap treatment for repeating a bad word was also a good thing.
It was nice to see Santa and his elves appear as well. They were pretty realistic interpretations of what to expect if you ever went to a mall to meet up with Santa Claus. They are paid by the hour so naturally they wouldn’t want anyone to take up to much time and once it’s 5, they’re ready to head out. Even then they gave Ralph some nice advice so that was awfully considerate of them. Ralph should have heeded the warning since he ended up injuring himself as soon as he got the gun. Not a very smart play eh? There was also a sub plot where the bullies would corner the heroes every day and force them to give up some money. I have to admit that this plot did grow old rather quickly. Seeing it once or twice was enough and the kids probably should have done something about it. Ralph did end up beating one of them up in one of the more cheesy scenes and I guess that ended the plot at least.
One of the better moments of the film was when the Ovaltine conspiracy happened. Ralph had to buy a lot of Ovaltine containers to win the decoder so he could figure out the messages on the radio. It turns out that the message was to “Buy more Ovaltine” which was a nice slap in the face to consumers. It wasn’t even subtle as to get the decoder you had to buy a lot of Ovaltine and now this was saying that you had to buy some more. I don’t imagine that the company had a lot of happy customers, but I suppose that it doesn’t matter too much when they’ve already bought the decoder. It’s a rather slick move, but that’s why it’s so genius.
The film actually has a pretty small cast when you think about it. Aside from the parents, Ralph is really the only notable characters. Yes, there are classmates, the bullies, and Ralph’s kid brother, but they don’t do much. That may be part of the point since Ralph is the main character and he’s telling the story. I can’t say that it matters much either way, but since Ralph wasn’t really a good character, it may have been helpful to have another main lead to help hold the film. There’s no guarantee that the other character would have been much better, but it certainly would have helped the odds. It also may have just come out at the wrong time. If this film was a little older than the writing would have given it a boost and the setting would be all different. If it was newer than they probably would have tried to make it more exciting. This could be a case of wrong place, wrong time.
Overall, A Christmas Story may not do a whole lot of things wrong, but its biggest crime is probably just the fact that it can be boring. The film tries way too hard to be normal and to be an example of an every day Christmas for the every day family. It doesn’t have any animal violence, the writing’s not terrible, and it’s not edgy. The problem is just that it doesn’t do a whole lot of good either. The family tries so hard to be realistic that it really isn’t and the characters don’t have a lot of personality. I think the main problem that the film faces all comes down to Ralph as the main character. Lets face it, it’s hard to have a kid as the main character and still manage to be an interesting film. It’s simply very rare and not even the cool voice could do it. If you’re looking for something peaceful to watch then this film could work well for you, but you’re better off watching another Christmas film like Jingle All The Way or Christmas with the Kranks. They’ll give you more laughs and just have more personality in general. I fear that this film has simply not aged well.