It’s almost Christmas day in the 1940s and all Raphie [Peter Billingsley] wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB Gun. We watch as Ralphie attempts to figure out the right way to get a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas.
This movie is a classic for a reason. It isn’t the greatest movie, but it knows exactly what it’s doing. This movie works because everyone who’s watching this movie (i.e. everyone who is mature enough to know exactly what Christmas really is about) knows that time when they were six years old and saw Christmas as just being a second time during the year (other than your birthday) that you get a ton of presents and almost nothing was as important as getting that dream gift.
We watch as Ralphie schemes to try and let those important in the matter of Christmas presents that he wants this rifle, while at the same time trying not to sound too desperate. He can’t seem to find anyone of his sources catching on to his hints. We are left seeing him at school with his friends discussing what they want to do and him fantasizing about what he’ll be doing when he gets his rifle (which happens to be saving his apparently completely useless family from bandits).
This movie not only wins us with this young simplified version of Christmas, but also with characters as well. With a family of characters like Randy [Ian Petrella] who is the younger brother that hasn’t voluntarily eaten his food for over three years, Mrs. Parker [Melinda Dillon] who apparently infects everyone with this perception that if you have a BB Gun you are going to shoot your eye out, and Mr. Parker [Darren McGavin] who is a veteran after all his wars with the furnace, you can’t help but love the movie and fall in love with its stylized comedy.
My favourite character happens to be one you never actually see but you hear throughout, the narrator [Jean Shepherd], who is actually the grown up Ralphie telling this tale of this Christmas of his past. I love him because the tone and texture of his words and his voice give me a warm feeling like I’m sitting by a fire on Christmas Eve with him telling me this story and you never feel like this idea of this child wanting this gift over all else as a dumb idea. You actually root for Ralphie to get his BB Gun and even though we (as viewers) know it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t get the gift he wants, and we probably shouldn’t encourage such behaviour we can’t help it.
In the end I guess I liked this movie a lot more than I think I did. I enjoyed the storytelling style but not the actual direction as much. So I probably won’t see this as a favourite of mine but it definitely has won a special place in my heart and I understand why everyone else sees it as a timeless Christmas classic.
IMDB says 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes says 88%
I say 7.5/10