Picks and Pans Review: A Christmas Story

updated 12/12/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/12/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Coy, cloying and precious just for starters, this seasonal tale is about a 9-year-old boy who desperately wants a BB gun for Christmas. For all its drawbacks, the movie has charming moments. It's adapted from Jean Shepherd's novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Real People co-host Peter Billingsley, 11, plays the boy with grown-up sensitivity—he's efficient but not really a cuddle-some child performer. Darren McGavin, as his father, overacts no more than usual, and Melinda (Close Encounters) Dillon, as the boy's mother, lends some sweetness. So does Ian Petrella, who portrays Billingsley's whimpery little brother. There is some fun from a surly department-store Santa, Jeff Gillen, and from Tedde Moore, who plays one of those maternal teachers in print dresses whom children of the '40s remember. It won't make anyone forget Miracle on 34th Street, but this is pleasant fare as far as holiday films go nowadays, which isn't very far. (PG)

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