“You’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”
If ever there was a movie that didn’t need an introduction, it’s the 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Driven to the brink of suicide by a string of unfortunate events, poor banker George Bailey wishes he had never been born. An angel then show him that reality.
Our Review: It’s a Wonderful Life
People who watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” tend to fall into one of three camps:
- It’s THE best Christmas movie ever!
- It’s a good movie, but way overrated.
- It’s a terrible movie.
Well, we are members of the third camp.
Let’s break down why we consider “It’s a Wonderful Life” to be a terrible movie.
George, the “Hero”
Why should we even care about George?
Is it because he yells at his drunk Uncle Billy (who George hired), “Wheres that money you stupid silly old fool? It means bankruptcy and scandal and prison. One of us is going to jail. Well it’s not gonna be me!”
Or is it the part where he berates his daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Welch, on the phone, and then his husband, Mr. Welch.
Or is it the part when he yells at his own family and starts having a hissy fit, breaking stuff and making his kids cry.
“George why must you torture the children?” Mary asks after the childish outburst.
Ooh, or maybe it was the part when, after praying to God for help, he gets punched out by Mr. Welch, who he insulted on the phone earlier. And then George has the nerve to say “That’s what I get for praying.” We’re fairly sure that George has only himself to blame for being punched out.
OK. Maybe it’s the part where, after going drinking, he drives and crashes into a tree. Another heroic moment.
Are we being unfair?
After all, we were watching George in decline, leading to the divine intervention and Clarence preventing George from committing suicide.
Still, even in Pottersville, after chasing around Mary, George punches the cop! (And what the heck was up with the cop SHOOTING at George as he’s running away on a public street? That cop could have killed some innocent person.)
But really, let’s think back to much earlier in the film, to college-age George (sure, even though Jimmy Stewart was about 38 years old at the time of filming). While walking down the street with Mary, he “accidentally” disrobes her. As Mary hides in a bush, George basically taunts her and refuses to simply give her robe back.
Mary threatens to tell his mother, call the police, and scream. His response to all this: “Maybe I could sell tickets.”
This is just creepy and cringe-worthy. It’s certainly not the spirit of Christmas.
The druggist, a drunk Mr. Gower, slaps around young George Bailey. George cries out for Gower to stop because he’s hurting his sore ear.
What did George do to anger Mr. Gower? Oh, he just prevented him from killing someone with poisonous capsules.
This was a disturbing scene to watch. No amount of hugging him or buying him luggage makes up for that.
Was child abuse cool in 1946? Because if it was, it shouldn’t be. And you shouldn’t paint this crap with some nostalgic brush.
The Way Women are Treated/Presented
So, in the world where the great George Bailey was never born, poor Mary is an old maid. And she works at a library! And – the horror of horrors – now she wears glasses!
Oh, the shame.
We’re fairly sure that Mary could have married any guy she wanted to. And without George around, she may have even had a more wonderful life of her own.
Now let’s talk about a scene from much earlier in the movie that takes place during a dinner, when Harry chases after the black maid, Annie. As she runs into the kitchen, Harry winds up and smacks her on her behind. This, after she threatened to hit him with a broom if he laid a hand on her.
Different times, right? Not better times, for sure. This was definitely not a wonderful scene.
The “Celestial Beings”
Some have called this opening sequence imaginative. We found it laughable.
The stars in space blinking was so ridiculously amateurish to watch.
And why would Clarence have the Tom Sawyer book if he can’t see anything anyway – plus a book is something only on Earth.
This Is NOT a Christmas Movie
People may call this a Christmas movie. But it isn’t a Christmas movie.
Only about a third of this movie takes place on Christmas Eve. And the two-thirds that precede it are incredibly boring.
There is certainly Christmas in this movie. After George is “back” in the real Bedford Falls and overjoyed to be alive, he yells Merry Christmas to people and buildings.
He’s now happy about going to jail, about having all those children, about his huge drafty old house (oh yeah, and all of that restoration work Mary did).
Potter Gets Away with a Crime
There is no comeuppance for Potter stealing that $8,000.
Unless that could somehow be construed as a gift? Since Uncle Billy did technically give him the envelope.
- Why was there a raven at the bank? And the squirrel? Are they pets? This is never addressed during the movie.
- Why didn’t anybody on their side of the room warn George and Mary that the floor had opened up behind them during the dance scene? Was everyone just oblivious? And why did everybody then dive into the pool after seemingly trying to avoid it?
It's a Wonderful Life
While “It’s a Wonderful Life” has a run of time of 130 minutes, it feels much longer than that. Yes, the final scene is iconic – and the film produced a couple memorable lines of dialogue (“To my big brother, George. The richest man in town.” “Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”) that have been quoted and parodied numerous times. But that one scene doesn’t make it a good movie. It’s slow, dark, and fairly depressing, despite a happy ending being slapped on for the final few minutes.