A Christmas Story Live!

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
A Christmas Story Live! TV Poster Image
Musical based on classic film is an OK update, but too long.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Overall, this is a story about family harmony and the holiday spirit, but there are some questionable messages. There's an entire song about Ralphie being a "wimp" for not fighting a bully; when they do fight, Ralphie's classmates gather to cheer him. Expect (period-correct) sexism: a mom and dad argue over who does more work; his is at "the office," hers in "the kitchen." The notoriously racist original's Chinese restaurant scene has been updated, but Ralphie's request for a firearm has not. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The cast has more diversity than in the original movie, with people of color in important roles and a subplot about a Jewish family who sings about the pleasures of Hanukkah. Ralphie and brother Randy argue frequently and their parents bicker, but they're all able to come together harmoniously in the name of holiday cheer, and we see several scenes in which the parents demonstrate love and empathy for their kids. 

Violence

Two young boys fight in one scene; their peers cheer for the fight and cheer Ralphie at the end. A song repeatedly says that someone who won't fight a bully is a "wimp." There's talk (and song!) that Ralphie will "shoot your eye out" with a gun (which he eventually gets). Young viewers might be upset by a scene in which a boy licks a metal pole and gets stuck -- his tongue does appear to be realistically stuck, and the boy is pried forcibly off and thrown into the air, flips, and then lands with a woman's hand over his mouth, her red nails looking like blood. 

Sex

Some of the talk about the "leg lamp" verges on the salty: "Fishnets? Aren't those for catching fish?" a young passerby wonders about the lamp. "They're for catching something," says his mom. Ralphie has a dream about his teacher that veers slightly sexual at the end, with the teacher writing on a desk suggestively. In one dance number, boys wear gangster suits while girls (who appear to be in the 10-12-year-old range) wear brief silver-spangled costumes. 

Language

"Smart ass" is repeated twice; there's a lot of made-up cursing, as when Ralphie curses (we hear "fudge"; he cops to saying "the f-space-space-space word"), or when Mr. Parker curses the neighbor's dogs or the furnace: "shut up, you goddingle dogs!" and "frazzle-dazzle furnace!" Ralphie's bully, Scut, calls him a "four-eyes" and commands him mockingly: "Cry!" 

Consumerism

There really are Red Ryder BB guns, and watching this may make a child want one. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are mild jokes about drinking, as when two men sing about their drinks getting "stronger" during the holidays. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Christmas Story Live! is based on the Broadway musical that was in turn based on the classic 1983 movie about a young boy who wants a BB gun for Christmas. The setting is still 1940s Indiana small-town, but the cast has more diversity than in the movie, with characters of color in strong roles, and a subplot about a Jewish family joyously celebrating Hanukkah (and teaching Ralphie about latkes and menorahs). Viewers can also note that this production does update the notorious Chinese restaurant scene from the original. The show's female characters, however, are still stuck in the 1940s, with moms staying at home and complaining about shopping, cooking, and housework, while dads talk about the office. Women and girls (who look to be 10-12) are also given brief costumes for fantasy dance sequences when the boys wear "gangster" suits. Ralphie's classmates sing about him being a "wimp" when he won't fight his (much bigger) bully; they cheer when Ralphie finally pins the bully down and punches him repeatedly in the face. A scene in which a boy gets his tongue "stuck" after licking a pole may be upsetting to young viewers; parents may wish to stress that the boy's tongue isn't really stuck, a vacuum is sucking it in gently. "Smart ass" is repeated twice, and there is made-up cursing ("you goddingle dogs!") and a subplot about a curse word that we hear as "fudge" but Ralphie assures us was really the "f-space-space-space" word. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLowe's man December 30, 2017

Stayed faithful and true to the original.

I do not think that 3 hours was too long at all for this movie. If the commercials get taken out it only lasts 2 1/2 hours if that long. Had this been a new m... Continue reading
Adult Written bybluntreviewer February 13, 2018

My Story on the Story

What's great: The person who plays Ralphis is really great, even better than the original What's not so good: some segments were not necessary (i.e. t... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Inspired by the 1983 movie and the stage production A Christmas Story: The Musical, A CHRISTMAS STORY LIVE! meets up with 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Andy Walken), an ordinary kid at Christmastime with one big wish: for a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle BB gun. His mom (Maya Rudolph) and his teacher (Jane Krakowski) sympathize but tell him: "You'll shoot your eye out." Meanwhile, Ralphie is dealing with the school bully Scut Farkus (Sacha Carlson), his grumpy lamp-loving dad (Chris Diamantopoulos), and the packs of winter-clad singers who seem to follow him everywhere to comment on his life through song. Matthew Broderick pops up too -- literally, in many scenes, emerging from behind sets and doors as grown-up Ralphie, commenting on and narrating the story. 

Is it any good?

At times this musical is lots of fun, it stars people you love, and it updates some of the cringier things from the original -- on the other hand, three hours is too long for anything. Even those who at first enjoy the jazzy, peppy numbers about Christmas and Christmas presents will be longing to shoot their own eyes out (sorry, show, you can't set us up like that) after two solid hours of five lines of dialogue followed by a nice long belter of a song. Not that there aren't goodies. As Old Man Parker, Chris Diamantopoulos dances away with any scene in which he's called upon to sing or move, and there's a particularly neat bit of stage business during his "Major Award" number in which he magically changes from vintage leisure dadwear to a tailored tux without a camera cutaway. National treasure Jane Krakowski slays, as always, during her scenes. And Matthew Broderick gets the show's best lines, cribbed from the book that inspired the 1983 movie, humorist Jean Shepherd's semi-fictional and brilliant In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.

The way that A Christmas Story Live! subverted the 1983 movie's Chinese restaurant was also masterful, with Old Man Parker quipping "That was not what I was expecting!" after a perfectly in-tune carol from a chorus of Asian waiters. Ken Jeong's restaurant owner replies, "What were you expecting?" Also: Ana Gasteyer can sing! But to be honest, many modern parents were also hoping the Parkers might not get Ralpie the gun, and they do, and he does immediately hurt himself with it, just like he does in the movie. If you love the movie, try this version on for tuneful holiday cheer but be warned: Three hours! 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bullies in A Christmas Story Live! What makes people act like bullies? What makes people befriend bullies? How will the bully's life change after Ralphie fights him? Is it realistic for Ralphie's classmates to cheer for him after he fights Scut? 

  • What other live versions of classic movies have appeared on TV in recent years? Why would it be interesting to remake a movie everyone's seen? What's the appeal of a live performance? 

  • How do the characters in A Christmas Story Live! demonstrate self-control and gratitude? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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