...Many moments of the film seem quite superfluous to the central plot. Why the broken furnace? Why the bully? Why the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin? At a mere 94 minute [sic], all these extra scenes, that have not made quite the splash in pop culture, have come to feel like cheap padding. If it were just a story about being a kid, I'd understand but it's so specific to the holiday season, that these moments don't seem to really fit into the overall celebration of Christmas.The first time I saw A Christmas Story was at a friend's house around the ol' Yuletide season. She couldn't believe I had never seen it before, so naturally I had to plunk down in front of the TV and watch it. I was pretty shocked to see that it was, in fact, running non-stop for 24 hours on TBS - I thought only The Yule Log got that treatment at Christmas time! Regardless, I liked the movie, though I never gave it a hard look the way Rachel does in her post.
Don't get me wrong; I have no great attachment to the movie. I don't rush to the TV to watch it every Christmas Eve. My favorite holiday film has always been Miracle on 34th Street (THE ORIGINAL, thank you very much). Still, I think I can address the reason why this movie is as beloved as it is. Nostalgia is certainly a huge part of the equation, but I think it goes deeper than that.
A Christmas Story is what we used to call a "shaggy dog story" - the kind that has a tendency to ramble and go all over the place and is not in any great rush to get to the "point," such as it is. Such kinds of stories tend to be part of the oral tradition (A Christmas Story is narrated by Ralphie as an adult), so there's a much greater emphasis on storytelling rather than story. It should also be noted that director Bob Clark partly based this film on a volume of short stories.
I admit, it never occurred to me that this approach might not appeal to everyone. I hesitate to suggest that it may be a generational thing, but I honestly find it next to impossible to imagine a movie quite like this enjoying the same level of success today.
I would argue that A Christmas Story is very much about being a kid, and that Christmas is the vehicle for that theme. Kids may seem more sophisticated and savvy about the world around them today, but some things don't change, no matter what the era, and I believe the enduring popularity of this movie proves that.