It’s a Wonderful Life endures as a Christmas classic after 75 years, though it has taken a backseat to more humorous fare in the past few decades. With the release of the 75th anniversary edition from Paramount that came out on November 16, now is a great time to remind family and friends what a truly amazing film it is. Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey displays a versatility that is rarely seen on film and the supporting cast is top notch. The story is filled with subtle humor and surprising drama that is sure to entertain everyone. Okay, young kids may not appreciate it yet.
With all that said about a movie that I am a huge fan of, the new release celebrating the 75th anniversary of a movie named the #1 most inspiring film of all time by the American Film Institute should have yielded something more extravagant. This new release seems a bit thrown together. Yes, we do get a two-disc Blu-ray set with a high definition, colorized version of the film as well as the original, black-and-white movie digitally remastered in high definition, and access to a digital copy of the film.
The problems start with the packaging. You must go to the fine print on the label, which is oddly applied with a few blobs of that stuff that holds your credit card in place when they mail it to you, to find any mention of the 75th anniversary. The same label states that Disc One contains the black and white version, while Disc Two contains the colorized version. In actuality, the opposite is true.
The bonus material, though informative, has all been previously released. The documentary “Restoring a Beloved Classic” is interesting but goes far too deep into the technology involved in the restoration process for most to find it entertaining. “Secrets from the Vault: It’s a Wonderful Life” is somewhat entertaining, but did not reveal many “secrets”, and did include quite a bit of footage that someone filmed at the wrap party, which takes the wind out of the sails of the final piece of bonus material. You guessed it. All the footage is in “It’s a Wonderful Life Wrap Party”. The wrap party footage is cool, but it cries for narration. The bonus material also includes ten recipe cards from Insight Editions’ It’s a Wonderful Life: The Official Bailey Family Cookbook with cuisine inspired by the film. I’m no cook, but some of the creations sound quite good, and I did find the lengths they went to in order to tie the recipes to the movie quite entertaining. For example, Vanilla Moonbeam Pies: “Every bite of these ethereal, marshmallow cream-filled graham cracker sandwich cookies coated in white chocolate will send you to the moon. No lasso needed”. I’ve gotta try these because I’ve never eaten anything ethereal!
The remastered, original film looks and sounds great. Watching the “Restoring a Beloved Classic” documentary before viewing the film does help you notice certain things that you would have otherwise missed. The colorized version seems unfinished, as there are certain scenes where it is difficult to appreciate the color that has been added.
The movie certainly earns Ron’s Recommendation. It’s a classic. A well-told story with great performances that is sure to leave you with a smile on your face. A perfect way to spend an evening during the holiday season. Unfortunately, the 75th anniversary release earns Ron’s Rejection. If you’re going to include only previously released bonus material in the 75th anniversary edition, than we need a lot more of it. And let’s clean up the packaging. Remember, no packaging is a failure if it’s user friendly.