Monkey Movie Review – A Christmas Story (1983)

Considered a classic by many people, this yet another movie that I never took the opportunity to watch over the years. I can actually hear your gasps. Oh I’m familiar with the various famous scenes (kid’s tongue on the flagpole, the leg lamp, the Red Rider bb gun, etc.) but I’ve never actually sat down to watch the whole movie. And there’s at least 24-hour marathons of this movie on TBS each year. So this morning, Christmas morning, I finally sat down and watched it.

The script is based on a book called In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by By Jean Shepherd; the movie is directed by Bob Clark. Darren McGavin is really the only star you’ll recognize from other movies and he ends up being the best part.

Honestly, I really didn’t enjoy the movie. I felt like I was wading through a lot of bland scenes in order to pick out the few poignant or amusing ones. It seems to be a series of vignettes recalling life in the early 1930’s and early 1940’s. The family has no TV and there are no large chain stores downtown in this fictional town in Indiana. The acting is generally good, with McGavin performing in the most genuine way. There wasn’t a single time I chuckled, nor did it represent my memories of Christmas or my parents or school or my friends growing up. There’s a bully that, as expected, gets his comeuppance. There’s an odd scene where the mom convinces the youngest child to eat his food by pretending he is a little pig. The son imitates the pig by pressing his face into the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, grunting and laughing. For some reason, we stay on this scene of him eating face down on his plate, and then looking up with food on his face, laughing, for what seemed to be an interminable time. We even cut to McGavin who is disgusted, but then cut back to the eating scene. Was this supposed to be funny?

The scenes that did stick out for me were: the changing of the tire where Ralphie utters a curse word, and the last two scenes at the end, after everyone is finished opening their Christmas gifts.

Maybe it was the narration by Jean Shepherd, which, rather than being a flat narration, he attempts to force a lot of comical inflection to imitate the feelings of Ralphie, or maybe it’s his attempt to tell you “hey, this part is funny!” – which I find as annoying as a laugh track. If you remember the Wonder Years, it was narrated in a much more effective and natural way.

The movie did receive over 80% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes so maybe it’s just me. It just doesn’t evoke any personal memories, and it seems to be aimed either at a generation before me, or at children ages 10 to 12 years old. I didn’t find it particularly funny, other than a few specific scenes. There are far better movies that reflect my memories of Christmas, such as Christmas Vacation. There are movies that are far funnier but that still retain that sentimental feeling, such as in Elf. There are far better classic Christmas movies, such as Miracle on 34th Street (the original).

I dunno – why does this movie evoke so many positive reviews/feelings?

On a scale of 1 to 5 bananas, the Monkey gives it 3 for sentimental reasons and in case he is missing something? Eep?

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3 thoughts on “Monkey Movie Review – A Christmas Story (1983)

  1. I liked the movie! I well remember getting tricked by merchandisers to save box tops etc. and receiving a lame gift. I never got the pig scene. But I loved Ralphie’s imagination and self created fantasy world! That’s what I liked the most and I could most relate to. Even though it was focused on a generation older than me, my part of the country was simple and financially depressed and I could relate to a lot of what was happening.
    Ralphie acting all innocent in school during the flagpole scene reminds me vividly of the time I caught my son standing up in our washing machine stuffing his clothes down in it! He was responsible for washing his own clothes and wanted to only do one load rather than 2. When I found him standing in the thing I asked “John! What are you doing???”
    He looked around like Ralphie, all innocent like, and said “What? Nothing.”

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    1. I think you’re right – people either really like the movie or don’t. I think I’m in the middle. It’s cute in places, and funny in one or two. I think they were thinking about a remake, but I hope not. Thanks for the comment!

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