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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/13/03

A Christmas Story
20th Anniversary Special Edition - 1983 (2003) - Warner Bros.

review by Robert Smentek of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

A Christmas Story: 20th Anniversary Special Edition Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/B+

Specs and Features

Disc One - The Film
93 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered, digipak packaging, audio commentary (with stars Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and writer/director Bob Clark), theatrical trailer, Easter egg, animated film-themed menus with music and sound, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 1.0 mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc One - Supplemental Materials
3 featurettes (Another Christmas Story, Get a Leg Up and History of the Daisy Red Rider), original readings/radio shows featuring writer Jean Shepherd, 2 interactive games, Easter egg, animated film-themed menus with music, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

"You'll shoot your eye out!"

In the movie world, you have your "Hits", and you have your "Classics." Hits are the movies that make a ton of money and sell millions of DVDs in their first week of release. Classics are the movies that stick with us, and become firmly imbedded in our pop culture. These are the films whose dialogue becomes a part of our daily conversation, and which withstand dozens and dozens of repeated viewings. Occasionally, your hits and classics will crossover (eg, Star Wars, Jaws) but every once and a while, a movie will rise from obscurity and become loved by millions through word-of-mouth. A Christmas Story is one such film.

Like that other perennial television favorite, It's a Wonderful Life, Bob Clark's A Christmas Story was virtually ignored during its original theatrical run. However, through repeated showings on cable television throughout the 1980s, the film has become a holiday classic... maybe even THE holiday classic. One of the few movies to capture the American Christmas experience, A Christmas Story is a hilarious look at both the anxiety and sentiment of the holiday season.

Based the autobiographical stories of humorist Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story is the story of Ralph Parker, a boy who wants one thing for Christmas... an official Red Rider carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and "this thing" that tells time. Unfortunately for Ralph, his dream is consistently shot down with five little words: "You'll shoot your eye out!" Moreover, Ralph continually struggles with the various hardships of being a kid: bullies, grades, and the terminally angry "Old Man" (brilliantly played by Darren McGavin).

Why say more? You've seen the movie. EVERYBODY has seen the movie. Hell, Ted Turner runs it for 24-hours on one of his cable stations.

But what is it that's made A Christmas Story more welcome at the holidays than most of our family members?

Although it's obviously set during the Christian holiday season, A Christmas Story is not geared towards a certain religious group. In fact, you could say that this movie is more about Family than it is about Christmas. The situations seen in A Christmas Story are so common and familiar that virtually every American family can identify with some part of it. Moreover, Jean Sheppard (who co-wrote the screenplay, adapting his own stories) does a fantastic job at capturing the feeling of being 8 years old. Ralph Parker is the perfect everyman, or everykid to be precise. A Christmas Story never falters from portraying the world through the eyes of a kid.

Previously offered as a Scrooge-like, bare-bones edition, Warner Bros' new 20th Anniversary special edition of A Christmas Story finally gives this movie the DVD release it deserves. Presented in both full-screen and anamorphic widescreen formats, the film looks great. The visual difference between the new DVD and the washed out cable versions we are all accustomed to is striking. Not only is A Christmas Story a funny movie, but it's also a beautiful one. In many scenes, director Bob Clark (best known for cinematic triumphs like Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things and Porky's) makes Depression-era Indiana look like a holiday greeting card. Some viewers may be disappointed that the disc's audio is limited only to 1.0 Dolby Digital, but this movie doesn't require the sonic attention needed for Lord of the Rings. It's more than acceptable.

This new special edition is also loaded with enough extras to please the DVD collector. On Disc One, there is commentary supplied by Ralphie himself (Peter Billingsley), director Bob Clark, and Melinda Dillon (hilarious as Ralph's high-strung mom). The commentary is entertaining and informative. They share production anecdotes and seem genuinely honored to be a part of this movie. Moreover, you will be shocked at how complicated it was to produce the tongue-stuck-to-the-flagpole scene. Disc Two is loaded with a number of fun featurettes. Another Christmas Story offers a where-are-they-now look at the film's young cast. There are also features devoted to the infamous "Leg Lamp" and the history of Red Rider BB guns. Both of these are very short, but fun. Other extras include interactive trivia, a secret decoder match challenge, and a pair Easter eggs (see instructions below). The first, on Disc One, is a script excerpt from a deleted scene involving Ralphie dreaming of himself fighting alongside Flash Gordon. The second, on Disc Two, is a funny Leg Lamp "infomercial". And of course, a DVD wouldn't be a DVD without the theatrical trailer. Perhaps this special edition's very best extras is a set of original radio show readings done by the late Jean Shepherd. Shepherd, who also served as the film's narrator, has a speaking voice that is as unique as his writing voice. The readings are funny and sweet, and are a fitting tribute to an American original.

Movies like A Christmas Story are uncommon. It's more than a film; it's a tradition. Thankfully, Warner Bros' has finally produced a DVD version of it destined to be on the holiday wish lists of millions of people. I triple-dog-dare you to not enjoy this release.

Robert Smentek
[email protected]

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Easter egg Instructions

Disc One

To access a deleted scene script excerpt, go to the special features menu page and navigate "down" from the theatrical trailer selection. You'll highlight a Christmas present icon. Press "enter".

Disc Two

To access the Leg Lamp infomercial, go to the special features menu page and navigate "right" from the additional special features selection. You'll highlight a Christmas present icon. Press "enter".

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