It’s a Wonderful Life

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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

A kind man, overwhelmed by life’s trials, is visited by a heavenly messenger and gains a new lease on life. The synopsis of this week’s Touched by an Angel? No, but it is the basis for Frank Capra’s heartwarming 1946 holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) dreams of seeing the world and having a grand impact on it. But small-town responsibilities strand him at home. The family business struggles to stay afloat, enduring constant attacks by a power-hungry tyrant. Pressures mount until George reaches the breaking point, convinced the world would be better off had he never existed. To show him what that world would’ve been like, a friendly angel escorts George through that same town—now a dark place having never felt his virtuous influence. In the end, George embraces the wonderful life he nearly threw away.

A half century after it was made, this delightful film still gives families plenty to talk about:

— How does George’s rescue of his little brother epitomize his life-long attitude toward helping others? (Jn 15:13)

— Discuss the national mind-set during wartime. How is America different today?

— How do the Baileys and Mr. Potter differ when it comes to showing grace and compassion? (Col 3:12)

— Explore how Mr. Potter tries to tempt George into betraying his conscience.

— Examine the lax attitudes toward alcohol and drunkenness. What has our culture learned about their dangers since this film was made? (Eph 5:18)

— How might George have treated people better after the money disappeared? (2 Pet 1:5-9)

— Talk about why suicide is never an option—especially for a Christ follower.

— Help your teen ponder how their world might be different without their contribution—and inspire them to make an impact for Jesus.

— What does Harry mean when he calls his brother “the richest man in town”?

This engagingly innocent slice of Americana has become a holiday staple on cable TV. After more than 50 years, families can still explore its rich themes and valuable life lessons together.

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Bob Smithouser