Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Double-Dog Dare You to Watch This

Some of the TV stations we get started advertising their annual Christmas specials even before Thanksgiving this year.  We’ve already watched some of them; for instance, the makers of Kung Fu Panda, one of Barry’s favorite movies, released a half-hour show in which Po and his family and friends celebrate the “Winter Festival.”  So far I haven’t seen any ads for my favorite Christmas movie, though, so I googled it to be sure I wouldn’t miss it.

I was happy to see that TBS is once again hosting A Christmas Story marathon starting on Christmas Eve at 8:00 pm.  If you’ve never seen it, A Christmas Story is based on the semi-autobiographical book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by humor writer Jean Shepherd, who also narrated the film, and was the inspiration for the TV show The Wonder Years.  The main character is Ralphie, a pre-adolescent who dreams of receiving a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas despite his mother’s constant warnings that “You’ll shoot your eye out!”  Peter Billingsley is perfect as Ralphie, and Darren McGavin gives an outstanding performance as his irascible father (aka “The Old Man”).

Ralphie’s family lives in Indiana rather than South Dakota, but the landscape of his childhood always gives me a feeling of déjà vu.  As a child I owned a red snowsuit exactly like the one that immobilizes Ralphie’s younger brother Randy whenever he falls over.  My family also went en masse every year to pick out our Christmas tree, endlessly debating the size, freshness, and price of the offerings at the temporary sales lot.  I don’t remember ever standing in line to sit on Santa’s lap, but we saw plenty of Santas who were just as anxious to keep the lines moving as the one that Ralphie encounters.  And, of course, we heard stories about the dire consequences of touching frozen metal objects with our tongues; fortunately our grade school didn’t have a flagpole, so no one could “double dog dare” us to lick it.

Even if you didn’t grow up in the Midwest you’ll appreciate Ralphie’s encounters with the local bully and his hangers-on, The Old Man’s constant battles with their balky furnace, and Ralphie’s mother’s response to the Major Award her husband wins in a crossword puzzle contest.  I laugh more loudly every time I see A Christmas Story; this year I may have to watch it twice.

“In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.” ~Ralphie as an adult, narrating

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