Page 1 of 3
Paramount / 1946 / 130 Minutes / Unrated / Street Date: November 1, 2011
It’s A Wonderful Life is a quintessential film classic in just about every way. It satisfies the most demanding Holiday expectations with heartwarming sentimentality that avoids becoming saccharine. The story is grounded and universal. Casting is perfect. Jimmy Stuart and Donna Reed form a believable relationship on screen and, though lesser developed, the secondary characters interact in perfect balance.
The story is both timeless yet innovative, and it strikes a realistic chord by infiltrating the difficulties and disappointments of real life with the beauty of human sacrifice and love. It’s a story that exists outside the cultural scope in which it was written. Even 60 years after its initial release, the story is as gripping and affecting as ever. Keep the hankies handy.
Curiously, the film was not a box-office success during its theatrical run and was considered a bit too dark and depressing for a Holiday film by its contemporary audience. Ironically, it was on television and not the silver screen where It’s A Wonderful Life gained the signature status of “Beloved Holiday Classic” that we know today.
A twist of fate allowed the film to fall into the public domain, which had the consequence of putting It’s A Wonderful Life on television free from traditional royalty costs (a factor which encouraged many stations to air it regularly). After so many years of battered prints and butchered edits cycled year after year, it’s a real treat to see a classic like this restored to its pristine, original glory for fans to enjoy - especially on this Blu-ray edition. But is it worth a double-dip....?