Everyone has at least one tradition this time of year. For many Americans, it’s Bob Clark’s classic, A Christmas Story. Made in 1983, it was based on the Jean Shepherd collection of memoirs called In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. This film chronicles the quest of 9-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsly, who is perfect in this role with his winsome smile and large eyes) to obtain a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Here are five reasons to watch it this weekend.
#1 – It’s always playing
Always. In the States, TBS typically runs this film for a solid 24 hours. And you know what? It doesn’t get old. It’s one of the few films that you can stumble across and it does not matter at what point it’s playing – you’ll stop and get sucked into it immediately. Best part is that you know that if you’ve missed time on it, all you have to do is wait until the end and you can watch the whole thing from start to finish. Plus, you actuall want to watch the whole that start to finish.
#2 – It’s iconic
Mention to any 80s kid the term “BB gun” and they’ll immediately reply, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” We all know it. We also get the phrases “pink nightmare” and “oh fudge” like it’s second nature. The Major Award? Oh yeah. We’ll start giggling (hell, that might have to be my Halloween costume next year). Flag pole? We’ll start talking like poor Flick (Scott Schwartz) after the infamous dare. Zach Ward will forever be Scut Farkus too. It’s memories on film.
#3 – The hellish Santa
I hate mall Santas. Some years, you get the good ones. Others, it’s pure mayhem. Sometimes, you wind up with a staff that, to use a phrase my beloved friends from the UK use all the time, cannot be arsed to do a job properly. Jeff Gillen’s Santa falls firmly into this category as the Santa that just wants to get through the day and go have a cold beer. It’s in everything from his body language to his pitch-perfect delivery. He’s glorious.
#4 – The swearing parent
Let’s get something straight right now: I love my children. I absolutely love and adore my children. However, I swear like there is no goddamned tomorrow. There are studies out there that swearing shows that you’re more honest and trust worthy; if that’s true, than I am the most honest motherfucker you’ve ever met. So when Darren McGavin’s The Old Man lets loose and Ralphie picks up some of the language, I have to laugh because a.) I learned how to swear from my own dad, and b.) I know my kids are learning it from me. Circle of life, babies. Circle of fucking life.
#5 – It captures what it’s like to be a kid
No matter what decade you were born, this film totally nails your experience. Crush on a teacher? Check. Schoolyard bully? Check. Obnoxious sibling? Check. Weird neighbors? Oh hell yes. Present that you had to wheel and deal in order to obtain, in a quest that makes Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings saga look tame and unimaginative? More than I ever wanted to admit. Part of why this film gets so far under your skin is the fact that it so thoroughly embodies what it’s like to be a child dreaming of that one magic day during the year. It’s the honesty as well as the fancy. For a short time, we get to be children again, and the world is still new. That’s always worth something.
You’re bound to find this one. Have some smiling duck and enjoy.