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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Frank Capra's bittersweet, heartwarming movie It's a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic. Tweens and teens will love it as an engaging story that takes on the human condition in all its complexity. While there's some dated behavior -- particularly in the way an African-American maid is treated -- there's also a beautiful message about how much each person means to the world. Expect some gunshots, a short fist-fight, and other scenes involving temper issues -- as well as the despair that drives George to consider ending his own life -- but overall this is a family-friendly pick for the holidays (or anytime!).
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What's the story?
Frank Capra's bittersweet, heartwarming movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is about a man who comes to realize the value of his own life has been a Christmas favorite for years. At the story's center is George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a man with big plans whose even bigger heart keeps him from leaving his hometown. When George wishes he were never born, an angel shows him the tremendous impact he has had on his community.
Is it any good?
No matter how often you see this perennial Christmas favorite, you will be entranced. Flawless. Indeed, it has become such a familiar part of the holiday landscape that those who have never seen it might dismiss it as "Capra-corn," sentimental and syrupy. In fact, the movie's vision is that of a dark-edged world in which heroes are necessary. George discovers that his existence has saved his community from the cruelty of robber barons and, more importantly, from its own greed and shortsightedness.
Made just after the war, It's a Wonderful Life was a favorite for both leading man Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra. And it's easy to see why. There's a delightful song and dance sequence, visually witty moments like the dance floor that converts into a swimming pool during a feverish Charleston competition, and sophisticated dialogue. Stewart gives the performance of a lifetime. Alternately affable and bitter, he is the movie's little-man hero. And if the movie is about broken dreams, it's conclusion is that these broken dreams can turn out to be a blessing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about It's a Wonderful Life's more disturbing aspects. For instance, George contemplates suicide because he thinks he failed in his life.
Talk about how each member of your own family enhances the others' lives. How can you show that every day?
Find more movies that help kids build character.
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