‘A Christmas Story’ at 30: now part of the family

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Even after three decades, the triple-dog dare doesn’t get old.

The film “A Christmas Story” opened 30 years ago to mixed reviews but has shown its staying power as a holiday family favorite. Cleveland, where parts of the movie were filmed and hard-luck Ralphie dreamed big, is celebrating the anniversary with iconic leg lamps, holiday store windows like the ones that drew Ralphie’s wide-eyed stares and stage and musical versions of “A Christmas Story.”

“It becomes part of your fabric for your whole life,” said Kevin Moore, managing director of the Cleveland Play House, where the stage version of the story has become a holiday staple.

In the film, starring Darren McGavin as the father, 9-year-old Ralphie was transfixed by the brightly decorated storefront windows. And he dreamed of getting an air rifle as a Christmas gift, despite warnings that he might shoot his eye out.

The plot follows his determined gift-begging, his encounters with bullies and his family’s daily hopes and dreams — including a lamp in the form of a shapely leg.

The Cleveland house where Ralphie’s film family lived will highlight the anniversary Friday and Saturday with appearances by original cast members and a BB gun range in the backyard.

The movie wasn’t widely acclaimed when it debuted, with favorable reviews barely outnumbering bad mentions like the one that grumped, “Bah, humbug” in the headline. But its quirky humor and love-in-family message struck a chord with audiences.

Like any holiday favorite, a sense of wonder is needed for “A Christmas Story” and 8-year-old Colin Wheeler thinks he has one to match Ralphie’s.

“We both have really big imaginations,” boasted Colin, who plays Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” musical at Cleveland’s Near West Theater.

It’s not easy playing Ralphie in that ill-fitting pink bunny suit, Colin said.

“I’ll tell you one thing that’s hard: it’s really hard not to laugh” while wearing that suit, Colin said.

Across town, the Cleveland Play House production of “A Christmas Story” attracts multigenerational audiences of children, parents and grandparents, Moore said.

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