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Monday, December 21, 2020

RiffTrax Christmas Review: It's a Wonderful Life

It’s almost Christmas, and for me lately, that means watching a lot of RiffTrax Christmas movies and short films! All of these can be found on the RiffTrax website.

Full explanation of my ranking system is here. Summary: C is average, A/B is recommended, D is badly made, F is something to avoid.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Rating: B+

Yes, it’s the Frank Capra film everyone’s seen. Sort of. Because of the weird situation with the copyright on this film, they couldn’t get the rights to stream a riffed version of the entire film. The whole “I wish I had never been born!” moment and the resulting trip to an evil parallel universe is technically a derived work based on a short story that is still under copyright, as are a couple songs used in the original film.

So they cut it out to restore it to a public domain version.

It sounds crazy, but they actually made this work. It’s a solid B riff, but I gave it the B+ because of the audacity of this move. It’s no Star Wars Holiday Special, but it’s definitely worth watching.

Some of my Favorite Lines:

“Their eyes are in their WINGS?!”
“Try not to sound so excited about the abuse, Clarence!”
“You were always best at getting Uncle Billy’s head out when he got it stuck in the pickle barrel!”
“Can’t wait until I escape from this giant house full of servants and REALLY make it big!”
“Hey, remember when Harry smacked the maid on the ass and chased her around?”
“Grab a complimentary office crow!”

Side Note: One thing that strikes me odd about the (unriffed) movie is what a miserable, horrible person George Bailey is. Also, I still find it enraging that Harry Potter, the evil banker, gets away with stealing $8,000, which would be more than $112,000 in today’s money. I know people today steal much higher sums of money, but for several decades around the time that movie was made, there was a big deal about movies showing villains not getting their come-uppance in the end. I’m shocked people accepted this.

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  1. My much better half's favorite movie, so I've seen it a few times. You are correct that Potter never gets his just desserts on film, however the film ends before that could plausibly be resolved in the timeline. When Potter's bank gets audited the next year, "You're $8,000 over Mr Potter, where did it come from, did you declare it on your taxes?
    Of course, Potter's character also serves to show people can act immorally within the letter of the law, so getting his comeuppance would have made it less powerful.

    1. That's human law, though. We already have angels involved. They could have shown a stranger walk into Potter's office and we could have this scene:

      Potter: Who are you and what's the meaning of you barging in like this? I'll have you arrested!

      Stranger: I answer to a higher power than man's law, Harry Potter. It's your time of final judgement. Come with me.

      Potter: Are you claiming to be an angel, come to take me to Heaven?

      Stranger: I never said "Heaven".

      Or maybe Clarence could have alluded to Potter's time of judgement being close, rather than show all that on screen.

      Just sayin'.