It’s a Wonderful Life? An American classic, indisputably. But for some of us, the movie that speaks to the kind of holiday experience we know better is A Christmas Story, the 1983 Jean Shepherd flick that proved that life is not so much Wonderful as Blunder-ful. Tongues stick to frozen flagpoles, dads yell a lot, and Santa brings heinous pink footie pajamas instead of the “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle” of our dreams.
One of the best things about ACS (starring Peter Billingsley, pictured) has always been its lack of holly-strewn sentiment: the light that shines brightest in it is not the standard glow of lovingly-strung Christmas bulbs, but the wanton plastic leg lamp, wrapped in fishnet and saucily topped with bordello tassels, that Ralphie Parker’s dad so proudly displays in the family-room window. It’s funny, then, to see the film become the focus of so much commercial attention this season. A current ad for Cingular Wireless lifts and condenses the plot wholesale in a mere 30 seconds, replacing the coveted rifle with a cellphone; the maddening refrain “you’ll shoot your eye out” is switched to the considerably less gory “you’ll run the minutes up.” National retailer OfficeMax, in the meantime, has not one but two ACS-inspired online games: www.stucktoapole.com and http://dontshootyoureyeout.com/
It all sounds kind of crass to us, but if gets you to buy a new stapleror switch your calling plan, carry on, mega-corps. We prefer a morehomespun tribute: A 30-year-old fan and former Navy lieutenant inCleveland named Brian Jones has bought and restored the original house from the movie, and he’s started offering toursthis week, which he plans to continue running whether or not he makeshis money back. And hey, he also sells reproductions of those famouslyleggy lamps. They beat pink footie pajamas any day.