Call me a Grinch, call me a Scrooge, or simply tell me that I have no heart. But every year, I’m forced to watch It’s A Wonderful Life, and every year I want to throw something at my TV screen. (Spoilers to follow.)
You know the story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). One desperate Christmas Eve, George wished he had never been born. His guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers), whom George had just “saved” from drowning, showed him what the world would have been like if George never existed. In the end, George realized that he did want to live, and begged Clarence to change the world back. And everyone lived happily ever after. But not really — because it still sucked to be George Bailey. Which brings us to why I can’t stand the movie.
1. Nothing ever goes right for George.
At every turn, his plans were thwarted. In order to save his father’s business, George gave up his college dreams to run the Bailey Building and Loan. So his brother Harry (Todd Karnes) went to college instead. A run on the bank forced George to use his honeymoon money to keep the townspeople from going to slumlord Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) for help. He turned down a lucrative job with Potter so the Building and Loan would stay afloat. George later begged Mr. Potter for a loan and offered his life insurance as collateral, but Potter told him that he was worth more dead than alive.
2. Seriously, what happened to the $8K that Mr. Potter stole?
Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) went to the bank to deposit $8K from the Building and Loan. He accidentally dropped it into Mr. Potter’s lap, who noticed the money was there. But Potter didn’t speak up. And not only did he keep the money, but he called the police on George, claiming bank fraud.
3. At the end of the movie, George is definitely not the “richest man in town.”
Not even close. His high school friend Sam Wainright (Frank Albertson) wired George a $25K line of credit. So now instead of having $8K of debt, he had $33K. Where was he going to come up with that kind of cash? Were all of his friends who gave him the initial $8K going to pony up the rest?
4. Clarence got his wings, but what does George get?
Nothing. A hug from his kids. That’s lame, right?
Honestly, I would have liked the movie had it ended like the old Saturday Night Live skit, where George takes out some of his aggression on Mr. Potter.
Or even this Colin Hanks’ spoof where Hanks’ Bailey punches one of his customers.
I know that I’ve overlooked the main point of the movie — “no man is a failure who has friends” — but still, the film is too frustrating for me to appreciate that lesson.