It’s A Wonderful Life (****)

Posted on December 20th, 2002 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

I hadn’t watched It’s A Wonderful Life in a number of years, at least not all the way through from beginning to end. Well, we watched it last night, and I have to say that this movie deserves its legendary status. I know the whole story, inside and out, having seen it many, many times, but I was still caught up in the film, still cared about the characters, still marvelled at the darkness of the tribulations in this supposedly sweet holiday film, still got choked up at the end, and still loved it. LOVED it!

Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors, and my admiration of him grows with each film of his I view. We recently watched the excellent “Anatomy of a Murder”, which (like Wonderful Life) allowed Jimmy Stewart to play light comedy while also exploring deep, almost dark, themes. His wit, intelligence, and everyman-ness make him charming, but not cloying, and powerful, but not twisted. That’s it — take the charm of Cary Grant (minus smarm), the power and menace of Marlon Brando (minus psychoses), and the looks of Howdy Doody, put them all together and you’d get something close to Jimmy Stewart.

In the years since It’s A Wonderful Life was released, many films with similar themes have been made, and have been referred to as Capra-esque (after Wonderful Life’s director Frank Capra). The genre has been done and redone so many times that many recent “Capra-esque” films seem to border on parody. Do yourself a favor and go back to the source, get the DVD or tape to avoid commercial interruptions, and watch this great film from beginning to end again. It is well worth the investment of your time.

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