A Christmas Story Movie Review
Also: They sell the infamous "leg lamp" on the Internet now. (They cost $250!) Clark wanted Jack Nicholson to play the role of The Old Man. These insights and others await the patient viewer who sits through the new Christmas Story commentary track on its special edition DVD -- hosted by Clark and Ralphie himself, Peter Billingsley.
For the uninitiated, A Christmas Story ranks as the best holiday movie ever, better even than It's a Wonderful Life. Based on the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, it's a period piece set in roughly 1940, telling a series of vignettes about a young boy that's 9 years old in the weeks leading up to Christmas. He faces down bullies, witnesses a dare match over whether a tongue will stick to a frozen metal pole, gets his mouth washed out with soap, and sees the holiday turkey devoured by dogs... and all he wants is a BB gun! But as everyone tells him, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"
What makes this film so good? It's so sweet but it has the cynical heart of post-WWII America. None of this happy ever after nonsense; our hero has to have Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant! Billingsley is so perfect as Ralphie that you simply don't want his adventures to end -- and in fact, they didn't; there are two earlier films and two sequels (many made for TV), following the Parker family; none of them have the magic of the central installment. A Christmas Story also has the most hilarious dream/fantasy sequences ever put to film, and the way it pillories our nascent commercial culture ("Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!") makes the film perfect for the whole year, not just Christmastime. I can't think of a single fault.
A second disc included in the DVD release includes a documentary about the film, two short documentaries about the leg lamp and the Daisy Red Ryder gun, plus some precious radio readings by author Jean Shepherd (he's also the narrator in the film). Highly, highly recommended.