Because the best thing about this movie is how well it evokes the wonder and the misery of a childhood family holiday. It captures the agony of anticipation to this highlight of “the entire kid year.” Filmed in 1983 but set in the 1940s, I’m far too young (and way too beautiful, may as well throw that in) to remember things quite as old-timey as little Ralphie experiences, but by and large, a lot of the big themes were quite nostalgic for me as well, and probably continue to be today: running around outside, wearing those god-awful snowsuits (to this day I don’t own a parka, or snow boots, because I developed a severe claustrophobic reaction to winter apparel). The kid in every family who won’t eat? My baby sister. Their faulty furnace was our busted sump pump. The demoralizing lineup to sit on Santa’s lap. And we were never treated to the spectacular department store windows unfortunately, but for us it was the Sears Christmas catalogue. Not quite as good as “mechanized, electronic joy” but still pretty drool-worthy.
You will surely remember that Ralphie wants, more than anything in the world, more than anything a boy of 9 had ever wanted before, was a Red Ryder BB gun. Me? I wanted a Barbie horse trailer. I asked for it every year for probably a solid decade, for longer than I even wanted it because it was tradition, and because I had to be getting close! I never got it, but my little sister did. At the time, I probably wished she’d somehow manage to shoot her eye out with it. She’s still got two beautiful blue eyes to this day, the little bitch.
This movie was only a sleeper hit at first but gained huge momentum as it aired on TV over countless Christmas seasons. The writing is just legendary. It’s perfect, and it should be, being based on Jean Shepherd’s successful series first published in Playboy magazine. It reminds me a whole lot of David Sedaris, though I guess I should say Sedaris reminds me of Shepherd.
The fantasy sequences are genius. I was a day-dreamer myself and was probably guilty of the same hyperbolic mental narration thatRalphie indulges in. He’s definitely the hero of his own story. But his father, brilliantly played by DarrenMcGavin, sure gives him a run for his money. Rumour has it that Jack Nicholson wanted the part, but his big salary demands meant the role went to the man who was born to play it.
And for all this magical Christmas spirit, for the pure joy of the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window, we have Porky’s to thank. It was Porky’s who put director Bob Clark on the map and allowed him to make the movie he really wanted to make. He shot the house itself in Cleveland Ohio but most other scenes were shot here in Canada – the tree lot right in Toronto, the schoolyard in St. Catherine’s. Peter Billingsley, the young star, knew a career-high when he saw it. Now he teams up with friends Jon Favreau (as a producer for Iron Man) and Vince Vaughn (as director of Couples Resort).
Aren’t you watching it yet? Relive the lusty unwrapping! The crappy Mom gifts (a fly swatter? really?). The present coma. The tinsel vomited all over the tree. The pink bunny suit, for chrissakes.
This movie is a classic and respect must be paid. I’m not sure you need to watch the 24 hour marathon, but if you aren’t watching this movie, you aren’t really celebrating Christmas. This movie is filled with all the pitfalls of spending any amount of time with your crazy family, but the closing shot reminds us that this is what Christmas is all about.
What was your all-time favourite Christmas gift? Tell us in the comments! And don’t forget to cast your vote for best Christmas movie in our poll.