A Christmas Story Parent Guide
This movie is about boyhood memories is narrated with a comical, satirical overtone.
Parent Movie Review
A Christmas Story celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. That’s good because it’s taken me that long to appreciate the movie. I first watched it when my kids were little—little enough that some of them were a little nervous about a visit to Santa. The scene in the movie where Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) and his brother Randy (Ian Petrella) encounter the bulbous-nosed department store Santa (Jeff Gillen) and his crotchety elves would have been enough to put them off good ol’ St. Nick for years. (Luckily I didn’t watch the movie with my kids.)
A couple decades later, I have a new appreciation for this seasonal cult classic. The film still isn’t for little kids. But the story embraces a certain charm for those old enough to be wise to the ways of Santa and yet young enough to remember the earnest hope that Christmas wishes really would come true.
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two hundred shot B.B. gun. But he’s smart enough to know he has to be subtle about his hints. His mother (Melinda Dillon), after all, is afraid he’ll shoot his eye out. So he puts a carefully placed ad for the gun in the middle of her woman’s magazine. He writes a stellar school essay about his desire for a gun. And he even makes a, albeit tragic, visit to the store Santa in hopes that a B.B. gun will be under the tree Christmas morning.
Set in the 1940s in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana, A Christmas Story is as much about the era as it is the firearm. Ralphie’s dad (Darren McGavin) spews profanities like a drunken sailor with a pinched finger. His mother tries to smooth things over in the family while boiling up yet another batch of chopped cabbage for dinner. There’s the brace-faced bully (Zack Ward) and his toady who repeatedly chase Ralphie and his friends down the alley. And a schoolyard dare leaves one boy (Scott Schwartz) with his tongue frozen to a flagpole. Dogs run wild in the streets. Kids get their mouths washed out with soap. And sponsors of weekly radio shows offer gizmos like a secret decoder pin to listeners.
Like The Sandlot, this movie is about boyhood memories, a kind of Norman Rockwell vision of Christmas past—but with a satirical overtone. It’s narrated in a voice over by the adult Ralphie (Jean Shepherd). Although the film had an underwhelming opening in November 1983, it has since become a holiday staple for many adults and families.
If A Christmas Story didn’t grab your attention before, it may be worth a re-visit. After all, things change. Like the mom in his movie, I worried about my boys shooting their eyes out with a B.B. gun. However this year, I not only gained a new appreciation for Director Bob Clark’s work, but I’m buying clay targets for my sons to shoot at.Directed by Bob Clark. Starring Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Peter Billingsley . Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release November 18, 1983. Updated July 17, 2017
A Christmas Story
Rating & Content Info
Why is A Christmas Story rated PG? A Christmas Story is rated PG by the MPAA for brief mild violence and language, and for some bullying.
Violence: A child dreams that he protects his family from bad guys by shooting them in the buttocks with his B.B. gun. Two bullies repeatedly threaten other boys. A boy pummels another kid until he is pulled off. The victim has a bloody nose. A boy is shown with a black eye after supposedly being beaten up. A father yells frequently. Santa and his elves are mean and grouchy. A child is dared to stick his tongue to a frozen flagpole, and police and firemen are called in to help him. A dog’s ear is caught in the door. A server chops off the head of a cooked duck in a restaurant.
Sexual Content: A man wins a lamp shaped in the form of a woman’s leg in a fishnet stocking. A boy strokes the leg. The narrator refers to it as “electric sex gleaming in the window.”
Language: While one storyline deals with the father’s penchant for profanities, many of his tirades are not clearly heard. However the script does include mild and moderate profanities, crude terms, some scatological slang and terms of Deity. A boy uses a strong sexual expletive (the word is not actually heard but a his usage of this kind of language creates a huge ruckus).
Alcohol / Drug Use:A character is seen with a cigar in his mouth. Adults drink socially in their home. A man offers his son a sip of wine, but the mother doesn’t allow it. A boy pretends to have tobacco in his lip during a daydream.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
More parents' guide for A Christmas Story after the break...
A Christmas Story Parents' Guide
How does this depiction of Christmas resemble your own?
Why is Ralphie’s Dad so excited about the lamp? What does it signify for him?
In case you ever find your tongue, or that of a friend’s, stuck to a frozen pole, here are suggestions for removing it.
Learn more about the real life Red Ryder B.B. guns.
The most recent home video release of A Christmas Story movie is November 5, 2013. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: A Christmas Story: 30th Anniversary
Release Date: 5 November 2013
A Christmas Story releases in a 30th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray, with no bonus features.