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It's a Wonderful Life More at IMDbPro »

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6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Seems overrated.

Author: Luciano Marzo from United States
22 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is depressing, which makes it quite inappropriate for a so- called "Christmas movie." I made the mistake of watching it on Christmas Day one year, and it turned out to be a damper on the whole holiday. Not just for me, but the whole family. The acting left a little to be desired. I will say whoever acted the angel was very good (I think it was Henry Travers). His character was also strong. But James Stewart's character was pretty depressing. He makes the small mistake of saying "I wish I had never been born," and shortly after, his wish comes true! He still lives in his hometown and is the same person, but all of his old buddies ignore him when he tries to talk to him. Even his family shuns him. If you are going to watch this movie, make sure it is not actually on Christmas or any holiday, for that matter.

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6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

If you can still dream, still hope -- this Masterpiece will Live!

Author: JoeMcCain from United States
5 January 2005

"It's a Wonderful Life" is a Work of Art and of Great Craft that will survive the eons for its many, many qualities -- acting, script, direction, details, clear commitment by all involved....and a rather 'eccentric' structure.

It careens so closely to schmaltz -- no, to pure saccharine -- that one is surprised to not find goo on the sleeve after viewing it. But it stays just inside that sugary boundary for several reasons --

The actors are absolutely committed to the truth and motivation of their characters. They don't judge their roles, they don't act at them, they strip down, then dive completely into them and make them live and feel and suffer.

There is no more well-meaning, ethical, but often disoriented character than Jimmy Stewart's 'George Bailey'. As one watches all the shifts of emotion from self-control, to whimsy, to befuddlement, to searing anger, to sweetness, it is hard to remember that this actor is a Bomber Pilot just returned from World War II, from flying deadly B-17 missions through the terrible 'black blossoms' of flak over Nazi Germany. And more, that this is his first film since he returned!

No meaner, nastier non-caricature of a horror than Lionel Barrymore's 'Potter'. The more infamous 'Ebenezer Scrooge' is a curmudgeonly, dismissive, venal and unsympathetic man. But he wants to be left alone. Potter is pure evil, while still able to remain in a society. Unlike Scrooge he is voraciously acquisitive, constantly intrusive -- an active predator and crippler of those whose shadow even falls across his view, much less his appetite. No scruples, no ethics, no empathy for anything or anyone. And somehow Barrymore and Capra make it work.

No sweeter yet frustrating relative you have tried to rely on than George Mitchell's 'Uncle Billy'. No more uncertain but determined Angel than Henry Travers' 'Clarence'. No more interesting array of people who decorate George Bailey's life -- Donna Reed, so sweet, so pretty, yet anything but naive or simple ... Gloria Grahame, man-hungry, sensual of tastes, but whose heart and hopes just keep her from being one of 'those' girls ... Ward Bond and Frank Faylen as the Cop-and-Cab-Driver buddies, who look out for George, when they can.

And of course the Center of this Life is Frank Capra -- directing, writing, bleeding, feeling, thinking at his very, very best. Clearly written, crafted, produced, directed with every cell, both cerebral and cardiological.

A lovely film become rich in its details and contrasts.

A decent George Bailey whom we assume would gave back Mary Hatch's accidentally dropped robe -- which leaves her apparently unclad in a large hedge -- is just about to, but then stops. "You know, we have a very interesting situation,'s not every day a man...." And actively toys with her over her desperate pleas (remember, it is the 1930's) right up until tragedy sticks a bony hand into the scene and wrenches the moment away.

George at the kitchen table talking with his Dad (Samuel S. Hinds) and sees family housekeeper Annie (Lillian Randolph) doing a little eavesdropping through the kitchen door -- "Why don't you just pull up a chair and listen...? " which Annie replies -- "I would if I thought there was anything worth hearing!" A family.

The film moves into ever darker hues, step by step, until plunging suddenly downward. George is pushed beyond even his elasticity, and snaps into a sequence of sudden and exploding rages, savaging even his own bewildered family, that is stunning -- the kind in real life that make you wince in embarrassment and turn away. And because the terrible moments are so very real in this film, you wince just as uncomfortably. This from the craft and the commitment of one James Stewart, the bomber pilot. Here you see the sometimes-dismissed as the "Aw, shucks" actor at an incredible artistic complexity, with a very large actor's toolbox.

The interesting thing about the structure is this –

It's a story about George's world (yours) would be like if he had never existed.

But for 1 hour and 50 minutes, we are shown the 'before' that happens, what life was with George around. Then in the final 10 minutes we are shown that world without George Bailey, and his understanding of that consequence, and his reclamation.

Life with George was complicated, often difficult, frustrating, confusing.

Without him, it is cold, harsh, cruel and dead, except for the brassy, blaring glitter of a world gone to seed and sensuality, having lost its human way without him. And when Jimmy Stewart's face turns into stone as he first sees and tries to understand this other world he cannot possibly grasp, so do we.

This is a movie about humanity challenged, of the heart being squeezed, of dreams being shattered or stolen. And yet the good in a few people – or just one -- can keep the endangered good in others alive. Alive until it can re-ignite and re-spread its warmth and light.

Unless the shade of iron reality and cynicism has rung down around you, you can hope and dream with these citizens of Bedford Falls, because Capra and Stewart and Reed and the others hope and dream so very, very well.

Oh, and if you can EVER see this in a real theater, please do so! I just did for the first time, and the silvered emotional reality that Capra paints on that big screen is almost overwhelming, it is so large.

Capra will gently squeeze your throat and your tear ducts. He did mine and a lady friend's (though she can cry at a pantyhose commercial).

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7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS: Don't read this if you believe the title doesn't take the ending away!

Author: Mort-31 from Vienna, Austria
31 December 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't wonder why this movie is among the top 30 movies. It's an American classic, you don't need more. If this was a European movie, it would get bad critics and ratings. But with the Americans we tolerate it. They are like that. The film they like best is the film with the happiest happy-end that is so happy that it's already in the title. Where I live, they dare to show it once a year, at Christmas, and that's it. It's typical for the American people that they adore movies where someone is shown by God Himself how much the world needs him! That's what gives them hope that their own life isn't meaningless. The problem is: That man the film is about has in most cases nothing to do with them. He is an angel himself, saved two people's life and gave homes to many poor people in a small village. Who else can say that about oneself? The plot is constructed, so the film isn't valuable to give you hope and people who realize that are rather made sad then happy.

America doesn't realize and that's why it loves this movie. Fine. It's not a bad film at all! It's really enjoyable, even humorous at the beginning, and James Stewart is a great actor. But again, I'm sure this film would have been fallen into oblivion within 50 years of movie history if it was a European film. „It's a Wonderful Life` is one of many bizarre drolleries of the American kitsch society.

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10 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

George Bailey Please Stop Complaining

Author: daveisit from Melbourne, Australia
1 December 2000

This movie is like eating your vegies. You don't like them but you know they are good.

I didn't really enjoy this movie. George Bailey gives so much in life and suffers because of it. He then starts complaining and having a cry over it all. Get over it mate. What was happening in his life happens a lot more often today, so he may have won the battle but he didn't win the war. Business is business and if you can't move with the times, you are almost bound to be unsuccessful.

I didn't enjoy it because I found his personality so annoying. What this does mean is the movie got me thinking and Jimmy Stewart played his part well. I have only kind words to say about the production of the movie and definitely recommend it to all.

7 out of 10.

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19 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

The Second Most Overrated Movie Of All Time

Author: david from California, USA
26 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 1946 audience quite correctly stayed away in droves, making IAWL a box office flop. Generations later, after its initial failure, after public domain, after the not even born when it came out pseudo critics have somehow brainwashed almost everyone under 40 into believing IAWL is a Christmas classic, we must face the fact that IAWL is not only not a great movie, it's not even a good movie.

Treacly, sappy, overlong, exasperatingly predictable fairy tale with just two good scenes and a main character devoid of interest, empathy or sympathy, IAWL is an exercise in futility at every turn. To begin, this is closer to James Stewart's worst performance than his best; George Bailey is a dreamer with his thoughts in the stars, rather than focused on the very big problem at hand. He's a naive, crybaby whiner with just the right mix of stupid to make him truly annoying to one and all. And he takes forever to realize Clarence is an Angel; I mean, how many miracles does it take?

This turkey comes to life only twice - the scene between young George and the druggist, played by the always great H.B. Warner, in which George (brilliantly portrayed throughout by the underrated child actor Bobby Anderson) stops the grieving Warner - who has learned of his son's death - from dispensing a fatal dose of the wrong medication to an elderly customer; and the ending, which, while just as sugar-sweet as the rest of the movie, is so well crafted, it works wonderfully well, giving the film a 2 on the scale of 10

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

My favorite

Author: andrewjllrar from United States
14 December 2014

However, after seeing this about 200 times, I've noticed this year how much the bridge attendant looks like Gary Shandling!!

Sad to think that virtually all of the adults in this film have passed away but nice to find out that virtually all of the Bailey child actors are still alive.

I see this weekend is the 68th anniversary of the film and the Its A Wonderful Life festival has just concluded in Seneca Falls New York.

However, I see little outside commentary about the fil from the actors although I read it was Stewart's favorite.

If congress can do anything, they'll outlaw the supposed mKing of the sequel of this film.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

It's a wonderful film

Author: Adam Peters from Birkenhead United Kingdom
7 December 2014

(92%) Could this be the best Christmas movie of all time? Well if it is then the fact that it doesn't stuff elves, a fat man in a Coca-cola winter suit, and endless amounts of consumer based gift buying down the audience's throat helps matters greatly. Performance wise it has James Stewart playing a big hearted everyman without it ever once feeling forced or unrealistic because it shows both the good and bad elements of trying to the right thing in life. The plot does share more than a little similar elements than "A Christmas carol", only it focuses on a good man rather than an old miser, which if anything works just as well as it doesn't pull as hard on the regret emotion which is something one doesn't really want to feel too much around the end of the year. Above all else though this is a timeless classic, with great direction, well drawn characters, a brilliant sweet ending, and best of all it actually shows, in most powerful fashion, that Christmas can be an awful time of year if things aren't running smoothly, which is something really lacking from almost every other holiday movie making this 100% unmissable for all true cinema fans.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Small town life

Author: Prismark10 from United Kingdom
27 May 2014

In It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (James Stewart) is man who wants out from his small town life but something always keeps him from breaking out and fulfilling his dreams. Instead he ends up working in the family loan company, helping other people out. He has a wife Mary (Donna Reed) and four children in an old house which they make their home.

On Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Bill loses $8000 while he is attempting to deposit the money in the bank but loses track when he brags to the town bigwig Mr Potter. The Bailey family nemesis, Mr Potter (Lionel Barrymore) finds the cash but keeps it to himself. George realises when the bank auditor finds out that the accounts do not match he might lose everything and go to jail. George decides to kill himself However an angel Clarence (Henry Travers) is sent to save him and to show him how valuable his life is to the people around him by taking him to the time as if he was never born where he sees an alternate timeline. George discovers that he has made a positive contribution to many peoples lives.

The story has been told many times since then in television, books and films. Even the last episode of Classic Dallas was a variant of this movie based on the Ewings if JR was not around!

The film is regarded as an all time classic and it does have merits for being novel such as the beginning of the picture with a supreme being calling for an angel and the angel being one who has yet to gain his wings that is another story done many time since.

The film is charming, winsome but also a shade too long. The alternate timeline where the town becomes a cesspit looks improbable with Mary being a spinster librarian, a friend of George (Violet) becoming a good time girl and other townsfolk becoming nasty and rather brutish.

Also Mr Potter never seems to get his comeuppance, even during the days of the code Mr Potter still managed to find a way round things!

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

i think I'm in love with James Stewart

Author: nicki_in_belgrade from Mansfield, England
25 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Wow. Just watched this for the first time and I'm totally in love with James Stewart! WHAT a great film, it still feels very fresh. James Stewart's character is wonderful. I love his enthusiasm for adventure and seeing the world, and I feel for him in the way he feels trapped in his life. I also really loved the exchanges between him and the house servant. The great thing in this film is the pure good that George Bailey shows towards everyone whilst still being completely human. The end is just a joy to watch and made me sob my heart out! Having planted all the seeds through the film, we now see the real impact he has had everyone's life. Now I just need to find a man like James Stewart - hott!

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

It really is a wonderful life!

Author: Jacob Jefferson ( from United Kingdom
25 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's a Wonderful Life

***1/2 (out of 4)

130 mins/ U

Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame, H.B Warner, Frank Albertson, Todd Karns, Samuel S. Hinds

Director: Frank Capra

Plot: An angel shows a charming, likable but frustrated man what life would have been like if he had not lived.

JJ's Verdict: What makes It's a Wonderful Life so special is that, although we see what the world could be like if George Bailey never lived, it is so personal. Bailey could be anyone. He isn't very successful or particularly rich, he's just your average everyday gentleman who, like everyone, has touched and influenced so many lives. It shows that everyone has worth in life and that we should never throw that away.

In It's a Wonderful Life, we have James Stewart's George Bailey who, like I mentioned before, is your average small-town American gentlemen. Kind, friendly and helpful and always looking out for others around him. This is also his weakness, because he sacrifices so many of his life ambitions like travelling the world to save the local people of Bedford Hills from the tycoon that is Lionel Barrymore's Henry Potter. Because he never reached these goals and spends most of his time fighting off the advances of Mr. Potter to seize the town, he becomes tired of life and extremely cynical. For a man so loved by the local people, George felt very unappreciated for all the sacrifices he had made throughout his life. So when his Uncle Billy misplaces an important $8,000 cheque and the bank examiner discovers this, George begins a rampage across town and finally ends up at a bridge, ready to end his life.

However, just as he is about to jump in, an angel appears, ready to show him his life's true meaning and prevent him from going through with his plan. The angel does this by showing George what life would have been like had he not existed. Of course, his family and friends all turn out worse off and the town had been fully taken over and commercialised by Mr. Potter. James Stewart, although very good as the charming but reluctant and living George Bailey, is perfect as the never lived George Bailey, and his scenes where he discovers life without him are emotionally devastating and Stewart makes you feel for his character throughout. Donna Reed is superb as George's loving and caring wife Mary as are the rest of a huge supporting cast that includes Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers and Thomas Mitchell.

Although it's ending fails to create as big an emotional impact as it promises to, (still a pretty good impact but you just expect more) It's a Wonderful Life is an uplifting masterpiece which just gets better on every viewing. Most people say this is the perfect Christmas movie or the perfect movie to watch if you're depressed, but I say the perfect movie to watch anytime and whatever mood you're in.

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