t’s A Wonderful Life remains a stone cold classic of American cinema. Masterwork goes without saying; the very definition of unforgettable. Frank Capra knew how to mix true sadness with true uplift, and when you look back on the film now it’s sort of easy to understand why it wasn’t met with universal acclaim and audience popularity, as it received mixed to negative critical reviews and it didn’t recoup its production costs at the box office. James Stewart’s heartfelt and agonized lead performance is one of the best of all-time and Donna Reed photographed pretty darn well. This is a movie that needed time to show us all how special it was and still is; the themes explored travel with all of us, and they inform us all at every turn.
It’s not so much a “Christmas movie” as it is a movie about the human spirit. The big dance sequence is still one of the great tour de force set pieces in the medium; it’s a marvel to study. And I love how the narrative gives the viewer as much of a choice as it does the characters. The Blu-ray transfer is stunning, preserving the 1.33:1 Academy ratio in all of its boxy glory, with nary a stain or print scratch in sight. However, the people at Paramount should be BEATEN for offering this glorious movie in a colorized version; the idea that there are people out there who would want to watch this movie in color makes me sick.
Review by Nick Clement