It’s a Wonderful Life opens with a suicidal George Bailey getting ready to jump off a bridge. This movie would’ve been a whole lot shorter and potentially more enjoyable if the director had just let him do his thing, but no, a meddling angel named Clarence has to interfere. First we are shown flashbacks of George’s life. We see George as a pharmacist’s assistant, saving a kid’s life when the pharmacist fills the kid’s prescription with the wrong pills. Great, right? But does George tell anyone else that the pharmacist is losing it and might be doling out death to everyone in town coming in for a harmless antibiotic? Heck, no. George goes on his merry way, never tipping off the cops as to the true identity of the mysterious Bedford Falls Poisoner.
After George’s father dies (because nothing says “feel good” like the death of a parent, you sicko freaks) George is forced to give up his dreams in order to run the family business. He doesn’t want to, but George is a bit of a doormat, so he just does it, settling into a life of misery and unfulfilled dreams. Personally, I can’t believe he waited as long as he did to try and kill himself. His brother Harry is supposed to take over the business after using George’s college money for his own purposes, but we can all see where that’s headed, can’t we? That’s right—Harry leaves George high and dry, taking a job instead with his father-in-law. Thanks, bro. You’re a peach.
George then marries Mary, a woman he has bickered and sniped with since they first met, always a great way to choose a mate. They have to use their honeymoon money to bail out the Bailey Building & Loan after a bank run nearly ruins them. World War II starts, because that’s cheery, and George and Mary continue to struggle, which is evidenced in the fact that they name their fourth kid Zuzu. Clearly they have both lost their minds.
$8,000 is stolen from the Building and Loan’s cash funds, George is about to be arrested, and he can’t get a loan to save his business. George decides to get drunk and off himself. Can you feel the uplifting holiday joy radiating off of this stinker yet?
Clarence swoops in and shows George what life would be like if he’d never been born. There’s a cemetery instead of Bailey Park (and I personally don’t understand why that’s worse: I’ve always enjoyed a nice cemetery) and the poisoning pharmacist is thrown in jail (again, why is this a problem?). His brother is dead, his uncle is crazy, and his mom is a bitter widow—all things that would’ve happened eventually anyway, methinks. Bedford Falls is now Pottersville, a thriving city filled with booming nightclubs and pawn shops. Looks good to me, but apparently this shocks George into wanting to live. He returns home, where a bunch of people have donated money to save his neck. A nice gesture, but who is going to save George’s behind the next time this happens? Then George’s kid with the dumb name lisps something about angels getting their wings, but since I have no patience for children or speech impediments, I had to turn it off.
This movie is depressing. The main message here, which I took to be “Hey George, it could be worse,” is the worst possible thing you can say to a depressed person. Trust me on this. When I hear “It could be worse,” I think “I don’t give a crap. This sucks for me right now.” You know what gets me down even faster than “It could be worse?” Having to sit through a nauseating and pointless holiday movie like this slop. No, I much prefer the Married with Children version, in which Al Bundy begs angel Sam Kinison to give him his life back, just so he can make his family miserable again. At least Al had a goal. Something to live for.
Now that’s a wonderful life.