I’ll admit it upfront — I am not an admirer of Frank Capra’s Christmas perennial It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). No, I’m inclined to agree with the critics who savaged it at the time of its original release and the audiences who stayed away from it en masse. It’s one of those movies that only later became a classic due to constant exposure on TV (especially constant since the film fell into the public domain and was able to be broadcast with no licensing fee). It’s not that I’m too cynical for it. It’s that I have reservations about any work made by successful folks preaching the gospel of “money can’t buy happiness.” In any case, I’m in the minority on this one and I know it.
I’ll readily concede that it’s a well-crafted film, beautifully made and superbly cast. I’ll also concede that it has an undercurrent of darkness that isn’t entirely dispelled by its “true riches” bromides. And I certainly welcome the idea of having it shown where it rightly belongs — on a movie screen. If you’re a fan, you’ll want to see it. If by some unbelievable quirk of fate, you’ve never seen it, this is the way to do it.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke