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A Christmas Story(1983)
Set in a 1940s-era Midwestern town and told from the viewpoints of a seven-year-old boy, who only wants one thing for Christmas — a Red Ryder BB gun — the episodic tale chronicles not only his schemes to convince his mother and father to buy him one, but also offers a warmly nostalgic look into 1940s middle-class American life. From the stories of, and narrated by, Jean Shepherd.
For more about A Christmas Story and the A Christmas Story Blu-ray release, see A Christmas Story Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 14, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, Jean Shepherd
Narrator: Jean Shepherd
Director: Bob Clark
» See full cast & crew
A Christmas Story Blu-ray Review
This Blu-ray edition of 'A Christmas Story' boasts only a new cover over the previous 2006 release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 14, 2008
Christmas was on its way! Lovely, beautiful, glorious Christmas around which the entire kid year revolves.
If one were to bet a Red Rider BB gun to a jar of Ovaltine that more Americans have probably seen A Christmas Story more than any other movie, including The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, the chances of winning said bet are probably pretty high. The movie plays for 24 straight hours on one of the Turner networks every Christmas season and has established itself as one of the most beloved films of all time, and not just simply among its Christmas movie brethren. Does the movie hold up in spite of the deluge of television airings and home video releases? The answer is a resounding "yes." It's as close to a perfect movie as one is likely to find, every facet a tribute to the magic of cinema, childhood exuberance, and of course, Christmas. To this day, the film elicits emotions of joy, laughter, and awe, a true sign of its staying power; most other films receiving this much airtime or this many video releases would do nothing but numb the senses. A Christmas Story is a perfect harmony of Christmas joy, the realization of dreams framed in both wit and humor, and conveying the joy of sharing Christmas with the ones you love. No other Christmas movie reaches quite the level as this one, and it's legendary status is well deserved.
All Ralphie (Peter Billingsley, The Break-Up) wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle (not to mention the included and all-important compass in the stock and a thing that tells time). He tries to drop subtle hints everywhere he goes; anything that could possibly persuade an adult into buying it for him is fair game. He slips an advertisement for the gun into a copy of his mother's Look Magazine and perks up when the rest of the class groans in despair over having to write a theme on "What I Want For Christmas." He even thinks up fantastical uses for the rifle, including saving his family from "Black Bart" and his band of thieves. Finally, his teacher and mother reject the idea, telling him that he'll "shoot his eye out." In a desperate and final maneuver, he turns to his last option: the local department store Santa Claus. In a panic and a daze after waiting in a long line to see Jolly Old Saint Nick, watching as horrified kids are thrown down a scary slide by angry teenage elves, Ralphie draws a blank once he is on Santa's lap. He can't remember what it is he so desperately wants for Christmas! Santa suggests a football, and Ralphie, in a near comatose state, agrees that a football would make a nice gift. He comes to his senses on the slide, crawls back up, and asks for the gun, recounting to Santa its every feature. Santa, sadly, responds as everyone else: "you'll shoot your eye out, kid!" Will Ralphie's Christmas wish come true, forever making him happy, or will his Christmas be a letdown, receiving only the ever-popular gifts like socks and pink bunny rabbit footed pajamas? The movie's true charm is the fun in finding out and experiencing the joys of Christmas with Ralphie, his oddball family, and many of the townsfolk along the way.
A Christmas Story, as director Bob Clark explains, is a series of vignettes with the common thread of Ralphie's unending pursuit of doing anything in his power to ensure that the Red Ryder BB gun will somehow, some way, finds its way under his Christmas tree on December 25th. Ralphie must deal with bullies on the way to and from school; he'll be implicated in a tongue-to-frozen pole incident at school; he'll find himself in the middle of a war between his parents over the world-famous "leg lamp" (it must be Italian!); he'll find himself with a bar of soap in his mouth after letting the wrong word slip whilst changing a blown tire with his father. The movie is full of charm; it's gracefully made and is perhaps the most convincing period movie ever committed to film. Bob Clark recounts that many people assume the movie was filmed in the 1940s instead of the early 1980s, a testimony to its realism, true-to-life setting, and timelessness. In the end, it's the one person Ralphie never turned to for help that will allow him to realize his dream, and that's the best aspect of the movie. Sometimes it's the one we fear, the one we don't see eye-to-eye with, the one that seems the most distant and out of touch with reality that understands us the best. The movie is touching from beginning to end, and one cannot help but smile throughout, especially in the final few minutes of the film when it seems that everything that can go wrong with Christmas has gone wrong, but the power of family and the magic of the holiday turns the day from a total loss into perhaps the most memorable Christmas the family will ever share together. It's no wonder that this film has been hailed as a classic and will continue to be recognized as the definitive Christmas movie. It just does everything right. Every shot is beautifully crafted, every line of dialogue expertly written and flawlessly delivered, and the movie exudes pure Christmas magic from the first frame to the last.
A Christmas Story Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner Brothers' 1080p, 1.78:1 Blu-ray version of A Christmas Story does not offer top-flight Blu-ray imagery. Make no mistake; this is not necessarily a bad looking disc. A lot of it looks fairly nice, but it simply doesn't greatly exceed the 2003 2-disc DVD version, and this late 2008 Blu-ray release is identical to the previous Blu-ray. It's an improvement over the DVD, but a minor one at best. The print exhibits nicks, scratches, and pops here and there. Many indoor scenes suffer from a spotty appearance where most of the print's flaws are found. Outdoor scenes fare far better, featuring solid clarity and definition. Flesh tones are accurate and black levels are rendered adequately but not immaculately. Fine detail is generally strong; woven clothing, the trinkets and warm interior of Ralphie's house, the wooden desks and chalkboard in the classroom, and more look just fine. A Christmas Story probably looks about as good as it ever will, and the image quality should in no way be a deterrence in adding this disc to a Blu-ray library.
A Christmas Story Blu-ray, Audio Quality
All that is available on this Blu-ray edition of A Christmas Story is a 1.0 Dolby Digital mono soundtrack, the same offering as found on the previous 2006 Blu-ray release. There isn't much going on here, obviously. It suffices, and quite frankly, the movie would probably not work as well with an aggressive pseudo multi-channel track. A few scenes, such as the fantasy sequences, may have offered up the opportunity for a little atmosphere, but on the whole, this mono track is just fine. Dialogue is clear and always discernible. Music and various effects also come across as well as one would expect of a classic dialogue-driven, charming cinema classic. This is an underwhelming track to be sure when compared to the latest in action movie sound design, but is one that doesn't detract from the overall movie experience. Most viewers will be so enthralled by the movie's magical appeal that they will pay little attention to what is a comparatively-speaking bland sound quality, instead immersed in Ralphie's quest to obtain that oh-so-beautiful rifle.
A Christmas Story Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of A Christmas Story features the identical set of disc-based supplements as found on the other Blu-ray releases. The main attraction is a commentary track with actor Peter Billingsley and director Bob Clark. It's a solid, interesting track that discusses casting (Billingsley was the first choice for Ralphie, Jack Nicholson was considered for the Darren McGavin role as Ralphie's father, and Melinda Dillon was cast based on her work in Close Encounters of the Third Kind). There are some instances of dead air, but Clark, in particular, makes up for the lags with some very good insights and stories from both before, during, and after production. He is also very forthright with his affection for the work of writer Jean Shepherd.
Daisy Red Ryder: A History (480p, 5:18) is a nifty little feature about the history of the famous BB gun. Another Christmas Story (480p, 18:18) is a series of chats with some of the cast and crew discussing the impact the movie has had on their lives. Script Pages is a text-based deleted scene. Read all about it! Get a Leg Up (480p, 4:35) is a comedic and patriotic look at the making of the famous "Leg Lamp." Finally, the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:10) and a Leg Lamp Spot (480p, 0:49) finish off the supplements.
A Christmas Story Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A Christmas Story is not only one of the best films of the last several decades, it's also one of the best films of all time, period. It captures the spirit of Christmas from a child's eyes as no other film has. Many have tried, but only this one has completely and unequivocally succeeded. Its simple, honest story is framed around a boy and his quest to obtain his ultimate gift. The film ends with the family sharing dinner together, representative of part of the true meaning of Christmas. Despite all the ups and downs of Christmas day and the entire holiday season, the film concludes with the symbolism that, no matter the odds, the joys, the sorrows of Christmas or any other day, it is family that matters most. This Blu-ray edition offers nothing new in the way of the actual presentation, compared against either the 2006 release or the recent tin. The image and sound qualities are identical to the previous offering, as are the disc-based supplements. The movie itself receives my highest recommendation, but the Blu-ray disc is only recommended if collectors do not have the most recent DVD or any of the Blu-ray releases.
A Christmas Story: Other Editions
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A Christmas Story Blu-ray, News and Updates
• A Christmas Story 2 Blu-ray - August 11, 2012
In October, Warner Home Entertainment will bring A Christmas Story 2 to Blu-ray. This sequel to the beloved 1983 holiday favorite finds Braeden Lemasters (Easy A) stepping in for Peter Billingsley as young Ralphie Parker, a 1940s-era Midwestern teen who experiences ...
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