"A Christmas Story" is a rare film about children yet for adults. While kids will definitely enjoy this Christmas-themed saga, adults will find a deeper level of depth than they may remember from seeing the film at a younger age.
The movie strikes a sharp contrast between the exaggerated, polysyllabic narration of Ralphie, filled with nostalgia and lucid memories, and the soft, high-pitched childlike wonder of Ralphie's spoken word. The narrator is clearly not the same character as the one portrayed on film, but a character wholly outside the story, reliving his childhood emotions and anecdotes. Yet he is the heart of the film, the true center of gravity. This is because the movie is not about a scary Santa Clause and a BB gun - it's about childhood memories and the feelings they evoke. To that end, "A Christmas Story" is flawless.
"A Christmas Story" tells of the epically materialistic journey of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) as he searches for the golden, upheld idol of all red-blooded American boys: A Red Rider Air Rifle. Ralphie spins an intricate web of cunning and deceit as he plots to get his hands on it - including an essay, a trip to Santa Claus and more. The movie also shows us a glimpse of his family - his irritable, foul-mouthed father with a good heart, his whiny brother Randy, and his sweet, all-American mother. It is not so much a continuous story as a series of vignettes, but it ultimately serves the movie's purpose.
This is a funny film. The narration by Jean Shepherd is filled with love for this story. He absolutely captures the emotions and logic of childhood. In a subtle but amusing moment, Shepherd intones the incomparably eloquent pouring forth of thought into writing - only to have Billingsley note in his awe-filled, high-pitched voice that "I think everyone should have a Red Rider BB gun. It's very good for Christmas." (paraphrased). Most of the humor is similar - the natural exaggeration of a child as expressed by Shepherd's consistent string of hyperbole.
Also, there's a reason why it's played constantly on cable TV throughout the Christmas season - it's a movie everyone can relate to. There are moments of such pure truth here that few can deny their power. I'm sure that there is a scientific law left unwritten that determines that every kid must at some point fantasize about his parents feeling absolutely terrible and forever regretting some unutterable punishment they inflicted on their child - in this case, the immortal washing of a mouth out with soap.
Obviously, "A Christmas Story" is not a film that can be compared to Casablanca or Citizen Kane. It simply excels at its simple goals, and comes together as an extraordinarily entertaining piece of cinema.