Well its that time of year, and every year I watch this film, and in addition every year I think "I should write something about it". Well this year is the time when I will. Every family has a collection of annual favorites, and this is the one sure fire film we have to watch. Like most holiday film traditions no one is really sure how this started. Clark's film is as old as myself, and no one is particularly sure who the first one to see it and institute as a family ritual was. Clark himself is still an unknown director, who before this film was perhaps best known for his B-movie horror. In terms of production values this Canadian produced gem was far from high budget. The cast consisting primarily of character actors who may have a familiar face but who's name doesn't ring much of a bell.
The best of the cast has got to be Peter Billingsley who plays Ralphie. He's stayed busy since this breakthrough, but has never quite achieved much of a noteworthy career. In fact I would vote Billingsley's Ralphie as the best child performance in film, a bold statement considering the numerous accolades given child actors of late. However like Orson Welles once said, "All you need is one". Now perhaps you can slight the film for shooting in Cleveland rather than Northern Indiana where it takes place, but such things are extremely common. The picture evokes a time and place beautifully well and you can smell the smoke from the furnace and the anxiety of having your tongue stuck to a flag pole.
The film isn't particularly flawless however. Some people find the fantasy sequences pointless and unnecessarily silly. Jean Shepard (who's book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash is the source material) also offers a little too much narration sometime. Yet being picky the one flaw I find inexplainable is Ralphie's guilt following Flick's untimely accident with the flagpole. I can understand Schwartz hiding his head when accusations are made, but Ralphie was not the one daring him and you can't say he was the one that put him up to it. This has puzzled me for at least a decade or so.
There is some comic gold buried throughout. Lines that have been and will continue to be quoted at nearly every family function from here on out, and isn't that what makes certain movies really special? The great movies make you feel, and the truly transcendent ones bring you together as friends, or family. Anyone who's seen the film will know what you mean when you say "Oh fudge", or "You used up all the glue on purpose". This is a film that probably ceased being really funny years ago, but now is a film you laugh at in anticipation of the next memorable line. Yet the greatest connection one will ever have with the film is remembering that one toy you wanted more than ever, and the feeling you got when opening it up Christmas morning. Unless you're me, who's still patiently looking under his tree for the GI Joe General.