A CHRISTMAS STORY
There are some movies featuring kids that annoyingly saccharine that I am forced to tune them out in thirty seconds. Then, there are other movies featuring kids that are totally charming and oftentimes hilarious. A CHRISTMAS STORY ($27) is a truly delightful movie that falls into the later category. In the twenty years since the film has been released, it has gone from a very funny movie, to an annual yuletide favorite, and finally, a recognized holiday classic. For those unfamiliar with the origins of A CHRISTMAS STORY, this holiday charmer has been adapted from the works of Jean Shepherd, which ably strings together a series of his vignettes into a cohesive storyline.
Set in the 1940’s the plot of A CHRISTMAS STORY focuses on a young boy named Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), who has become obsessed with getting the perfect Christmas gift- a Red Ryder Carbine Action, 200 Shot, Range Model Air Rifle. Of course, the second Ralphie mentions his gift of choice to his Mother (Melinda Dillon)- she responds in typical motherly fashion by stating "you’ll shoot your eye out!" Undeterred, Ralphie continues his quest throughout the rest of the movie, but not before a series of hilarious occurrences, including a tire changing incident that leaves a bad taste in Ralphie’s mouth and the repercussions of his Father (Darren McGavin) winning a rather unusual lighting fixture. The cast of A CHRISTMAS STORY also features Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Tedde Moore, Yano Anaya, Zack Ward and the voice of Jean Shepherd himself serving as the film’s narrator.
Warner Home Video has made A CHRISTMAS STORY available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays, a full screen version is provided on a separate layer of the disc, but is not reviewed. The wide screen version of A CHRISTMAS STORY features a pretty nice transfer of a modestly budgeted film from 1983. Sure, the image lacks the snap and detail of a brand new movie, or even a big budget film from the same period, but the DVD produces a reasonably sharp and fairly well defined picture. There are some shots that appear a bit soft, and some of the dark scenes are slightly nondescript, but for the most part, the presentation is more than satisfactory. Colors are occasionally vibrant and occasionally muted by design, but the flesh tones come across in a natural wintry fashion. Blacks are respectable, whites appear solid and contrast is smooth. Digital compression artifacts are pretty much a non-issue.
A CHRISTMAS STORY comes with a perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. This is pretty much a dialogue driven movie, so remixing the soundtrack really wouldn’t have benefited the material very much. Dialogue itself is clean and always completely understandable- that is, all of it that is intended to be understandable. The track itself doesn’t demonstrate any noticeable signs of background hiss or other audible anomalies. Fidelity is more than adequate for the material and even the vintage radio programs integrated into the track sound fine. A French language track is also provided on the DVD, along with English, Spanish and French subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serves to enhance the interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that have been spread across both discs of this set. Up first, on disc one is a fun running audio commentary with director Bob Clark and actor Peter Billingsley. This is an enjoyable talk, as both men share their remembrances of making this movie, although their comments do get a bit sparse in places. A theatrical trailer is also on disc one.
On disc two one will find the supplemental programs starting with Another Christmas Story. Another Christmas Story is an eighteen-minute program with Bob Clark, Peter Billingsley, R.D. Robb, Scott Schwartz, and Zack Ward, all of whom share their memories of the movie, as well as the effect that it has had on their lives and careers. Interactive features include the Triple Dog Dare trivia game and Decoder. The Radio section is a real treat featuring Jean Shepherd reading two of his classic stories. Lastly, are a couple of cool featurettes, Daisy Red Rider: A History and Get A Leg Up. Daisy Red Rider: A History is a five minute look at the company that manufactured the coveted gun depicted in the film, while Get A Leg Up is a humorous four minute take on that all American icon- the leg lamp.
A CHRISTMAS STORY is a true holiday delight made even more delightful by the fact that its Twentieth Anniversary edition finally offers fans something that’s been on the Xmas lists for quite some time- namely, a wide screen version of the film. So, you are a fan of A CHRISTMAS STORY then you’ll want to stuff this DVD in your holiday stocking and those of everyone you know. Recommended.
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