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Few – if anyone – chooses to remember their letter grade on a school Christmas report. In that moment though, nothing else matters. When that A-through-F mark reaches the desk, it’s either terror or relief, and then an insignificant happening soon after. A Christmas Story recounts such a non-event with complete honesty. It does that with a lot of things.

A Christmas Story builds its story around Christmas, obviously. The holiday is the catalyst, because every event in Ralphie’s (Peter Billingsley) life leads to that fateful morning. Yet, A Christmas Story does fine even without the seasonal dressing, as Ralphie’s earnest eyes look on at his bribed teacher or his daydreams that see him defending his family from criminals. Those fantasies, allowed only by a child’s naive, sheltered worldview, sell an active and wholly normal imagination.

A Christmas Story works because it maintains a baseline reality

It’s easy to distill A Christmas Story down to a few marketable moments. The leg lamp, the BB gun, the soap-in-mouth punishment; Warner found a way to sell it all. However, Ralphie’s December adventure considers even the tiny things. There’s Ralphie’s monologue about how his dad’s turkey fixation is “known throughout the midwest.” It’s not, obviously, but to a kid whose entire universe exists in an average middle class home, everything is a legend. Everyone knows. If not, they will.

Although told entirely from Ralphie’s perspective, the POV doesn’t distort the parenting side. A Christmas Story bounces so readily from chaos to joy and back, for Ralphie it’s overwhelming. His life ends (at least he thinks as much) on trivial nonsense. Meanwhile, his parents keep their composure, while behind-the-scenes stocking up on presents. While loaded on charm, A Christmas Story doesn’t avoid normal family confrontation. Mom (Melinda Dillon) and Dad (Darren McGavin) verbally spar over a gaudy lamp, and mom finds an easy out for Ralphie after a fight, dodging dad’s anger.

Dreamlike and warm, A Christmas Story works because it maintains a baseline reality. Even in this era with smart phones and streaming TV, there’s a genuine side to A Christmas Story that’s universally understood. The ‘40s setting merely adds another nostalgia hit, like a Normal Rockwell painting in motion.

Video

Miles better than Warner’s ancient VC-1 encoded Blu-ray, this restoration preserves the steamy, nostalgic cinematography. This isn’t an easy encoding gig, and it’s not always a winning effort. The hazier A Christmas Story gets, the harder it is for the encode to hang on. Minor artifacting appears. Banding shows up (very) slightly on flesh tones in close, but it’s subtle.

Otherwise, A Christmas Story looks fantastic in 4K, even if the detail doesn’t make dramatic improvements in textural terms. Resolution won’t make an immediate impression, imagery on the softened side. Definition does increase overall, fidelity more apparent and the mastering finds everything it can. Exteriors show stellar work on homes and leafless brush.

Preserving A Christmas Story’s drier color palette, the tiny, nostalgic warmth is intact. Primaries keep a reasonable saturation, never too bright or bleeding. This pairs well to the HDR bringing significant zip to Christmas lights and other such sources. Exteriors, covered in snow, present a natural baseline contrast to work from. Black levels steer toward providing dimensionality, if typically blander than others.

Audio

In DTS-HD, this stereo mix – which is more mono than anything – preserves a looser, scratchy source. Jean Sheperd’s narration sounds especially rough, while the score is trapped in a merely passable mid-range with mild distortion in the few upper registers. A Christmas Story’s audio doesn’t improve much in reaching a new format.

Extras

Included here is a commentary with Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, and Bob Clark. This is followed by the longest featurette on the disc, Another Christmas Story. Just shy of 20-minutes, this brings together much of the cast to reminisce on the shoot. Two featurettes on props, one on the BB Gun and the other on the leg lamp (the latter played for laughs) are nice, informative extras. A text script page details a deleted scene.

A Christmas Story
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

Among the most saccharine, comfortable nostalgia ever put to film, A Christmas Story captures the kid’s holiday season flawlessly.

Overall
5
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User Review
3.2 (5 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 42 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: