A Christmas Story - In Which Chris Loses All Readers We've Gained in 2016

A Christmas Story

Directed by: Bob Clark

Starring: no one of consequence

Writers: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark

Do I hafta?: Yeah, you hafta.

I’ve officially spent an entire year with this website, and that makes me very happy. Has it been a great year? Ooooh, no no no no no no no no no no NO no no. 2016 has been a heaping pile of crap and I won’t pretend otherwise. Still, creating dynamic content for our award-winning readers is something that gives me purpose and pleasure, and it’s been an honor writing. Thank you for reading. Please turn off adblock; I'm so hungry. 

The horrendous year has, to its credit, also brought cheerful tidings to the Terrible Office. I’ve been promoted to Head Intern, which doesn’t herald any increase in pay (still pulling down a steady $0.00 with no college credits), but I now have the added responsibility of directing all the other interns at terribleblog.net. This would probably be more fruitful if I wasn’t the only other person at the site besides Mr. Pataki, but only time can tell. Unfortunately, the rise in reader numbers has kinda got to the ol’ boss man’s head, and he wants more and more. His most recent demand assignment is a controversial review to bring in those sweet, sweet clicks. Fine. You got it, Pageviews Pataki.

I hate A Christmas Story.

I’m being completely serious; this movie is dogshit. This movie is a torrent of pain delivered straight to the ear canal with no antiseptic. It’s a grating, boring, irritating, arguably offensive movie. Look, I’ll be straight with you guys – I’m not doing another scene by scene breakdown of this movie. Let me give myself a Christmas present for a change, will ya? You all already know how the story goes, all the major scenes, all the “jokes,” all the beats, all the lines. I’m just gonna list my grievances and you can immediately tell me how I’m a bad person for not liking what everyone else likes.

The first and most noticeable problem this movie commits is the sound of nearly everyone’s voice. Tell me, what’s the worst sound in the world? Take some time, think to yourself for a minute, there’s no wrong answer. Alright, I lied, every answer is the wrong answer unless you said “the sound of a child screaming/crying”. Guess what this movie is all about!

God, how do any of you people put up with this? How do you get through this movie in one sitting? Granted, it’s not very long, but it’s just so densely packed with whining, crying, shrieking and sobbing. I’d rather listen to Metal Machine Music. That’s not a joke. A lot of blame has to be given to Randy, the main character’s younger brother. The very first thing we hear is him whining for his brother to move out of the way of the dresser (oh yeah, big time thing brothers do all the time, you really nailed that social construct). The actor, Ian Petrella, might be a really nice guy (Wikipedia tells me he’s into puppetry, which is pretty cool), but good lord I cannot stand his 9-year-old voice. It’s the worst thing in the world. His whining when he has to eat his food is the worst. His crying (crying!) when he can’t move his arms because he’s wearing too many jackets is the worst. His screaming when he can’t get up is the worst. His whimpering when he thinks the Old Man is going to kill Ralphie is the worst. His shrieking when he sits on Santa’s lap is the worst (though not unexpected). I know he’s only a supporting character, but he leaves the worst impression of any character in any movie I’ve seen.

Randy’s not the only offender, though. The other kids in the movie have godawful voices too. That idiot kid who gets his tongue stuck to the pole is very easily the nadir of the movie just because of the way he screams. I can’t stand the way Ralphie and his friends scream while running away from Scut Farkus. The sound of Schwartz wailing as he gets beat over the phone is honestly kind of disturbing. Even the sound Scut Farkus makes while Ralphie kicks his ass is grating. Why do the children scream when they go down that stupid slide? I am so unbelievably sick of the sound of crying children. I’ve taught five-year-olds in South Korea. I’ve been a wrestling coach for almost half my life. I have heard more screaming, sobbing, crying, whining, and shrieking in this 94 minute movie than I have in any occupation I’ve held.

You know who else gets on my nerves? The Old Man. He slams the door on a dog’s ear and shows no remorse, as we – the audience – are treated to the decadent melody of a canine moaning in pain. Then this boob is so dense that he can’t even read the word “fragile”. He think it’s fruh-GEE-lay. That’s something the Three Stooges would do, not some (apparently) salaried employee who’s married with two children in a pretty decent neighborhood. I know, I know, he’s probably not that stupid, he’s just excited about winning his prize. Really? He’s excited over this?

Be still, your beating hearts.

Ah yes, a treasure that shall go down in history with the greatest props in filmdom. The sled from Citizen Kane. The suitcase from Pulp Fiction. The lamp from A Christmas Story. Seriously, what is the deal with this stupid lamp? It’s supposed to be sexy, right? Ralphie describes it as “electric sex.” Is this what titillated men back in the 1940s? Am I gay for not seeing the big deal here? Are people just really into ugly, kitschy shit? It’s just a stupid lamp. I didn’t like the way Ralphie’s mom encouraged Randy to literally eat like a pig and…for some reason tasted soap that had previously been in Ralphie’s mouth, but I’m totally on her side. Trash that goddam lamp. Team Mom. We’re printing up t-shirts.

The Chinese restaurant scene always makes me really uncomfortable. Again, this is a movie that’s much harder to listen to than it is to watch. I’m just some nondescript white guy, so I guess I don’t really have much say in what is and what isn’t racist, but it’s a really lousy scene and I always feel bad for the Chinese actors in this movie.

Ultimately, what everyone tells me they love about this movie is that it’s so relatable. To me, that’s probably the most soulcrushing thing I could possibly hear. Now, I know what people mean when they say it’s relatable; it’s the frequent daydreams, the hopes of getting just what you want for Christmas, the fear of angering your parents, the relative who always got you ugly clothes, your childhood friends, etc. (there’s really a lot more). That’s all well and good, but that’s not what I hear when they tell me this movie is relatable. I think of the crying children. I think of the ruined dinner. I think of the (possible?) racism. Is that what Christmas was like for you? If so, I’m really, honestly, genuinely, seriously sorry. My Christmases were great. Every single one of ‘em. I love Christmas, and that’s why I can’t stand A Christmas Story.

To the movie’s credit – and there has to be some credit, this isn’t exactly I Spit on Your Grave here – it is (mostly) very well written. Jean Shepherd was an excellent writer, the level of writer I’d like to be if I ever get any good at this. He tells a believable story and his diction is exactly what I’m looking for. I don’t care so much for the dialogue, but it’s standard fare at worst (and best). Peter Billingsley also does an admirable job as Ralphie; acting at the age of 12 isn’t easy, but Peter just acts like a kid – a real kid, and a kid who’s fun to watch. Another little thing I liked was the frequency of the fantasy daydreams (though I found the content lacking). That’s what I did a lot as a kid, and I still do it a lot as an adult. It’s nice to see there’s at least one part of this movie I can relate to. Then again, if I wanted to see fantasy daydreams then I could just watch Sidekicks, and that has Chuck Norris (and Julia Nickson – slideshow, she’s in it). Why would I want to watch this?

There are so many true Christmas classics out there. Why can’t everyone rally around Holiday Inn? Who will die on the hill to defend Miracle on 34th Street? Where are the armies for It’s a Wonderful Life, my personal #3 movie of all time? If I'm going to watch a Bob Clark Christmas movie it's going to be Black Christmas, because at least there I can see Margot Kidder get murdered with a unicorn statue. 

Hell, forget the classics. I’d rather watch anything besides A Christmas Story. Go ahead, give me Jack Frost. Which Jack Frost? Any Jack Frost! I’d rather sit through Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. I’d rather sit through Eight Crazy Nights. I’d rather sit through Fred Claus. I’d rather sit through

Never mind. A Christmas Story is perfect just the way it is. Merry Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. If that leg lamp is what people found erotic back in the 40's, then Pearl Harbor was a godsend. What a milquetoast society we used to be.

    I dislike this movie. Not just because it has the balls to be on for 24 hours a day, when excellent movies like 3 Ninjas High Noon at Mega Mountain haven't been seen in roughly 45 years. I dislike this movie because people treat it like some kind of goddamned Christmas institution. It's fine, it's passable, but treating Ralphie like he's up there with Ebeneezer fucking Scrooge? Give me a break. This is as iconic as "A Charlie Brown Christmas?" Kiss my grits. Was this thing even as huge as it was before we started pumping it into people's veins every Christmas?