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If You Gotta Do A Sequel to It's a Wonderful Life

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Posted 11-18-2013 at 05:11 PM by Jeff Westover

The Christmas news of the day is the announcement that a sequel will be made of It's a Wonderful Life and will feature some of the child actors who played the Bailey kids in the original.

My instant reaction to this was NOT good.

Sequels don't have a great history of success. Christmas sequels have an even worse reputation.

And it isn't like It's a Wonderful Life hasn't been remade before. Remember how awful the Marlo Thomas version was?

There are several dangerous elements to this project.

First, and foremost, there is the story. It must be remembered that when It's a Wonderful Life first hit theaters it was a flop. It was nominated for Academy awards but this was at a time when studios put out a fraction of films per year compared to what they do now. This story wasn't compelling and the time and the film went into to cold storage for so long its copyright expired which freed it up to get massive amounts of late-night Christmas replay on television stations.

It was only then -- 30 years later -- that the film became a beloved classic, it's story appealing to a generation later that appreciated the nostalgia that war-weary America rejected in the film of it's time.

So not only can the story not only trip this up before it gets films it MUST do something to connect to fans of the movie today.

I can recall in 1989 the release of Field of Dreams and hearing Kevin Costner talk about that movie being in the vein of It's a Wonderful Life. I didn't believe it from the previews but became a believer only after seeing the film.

Can you think of another film since 1946 that we can compare in sentiment and thought along the lines of the heart-tugger that is It's a Wonderful Life?

I can't. And I don't suppose most films even try.

But they have to go there with this story -- straight to the heart. After 60-something years I'm still invested in George Bailey. It is going to take a lot to get me to that level with his grandson.

Second, there's the players. Who gets the lead here?

Jimmy Stewart WAS George Bailey. Forget Jimmy Stewart as an actor and every role in which you loved him. Research him as a man. Look up his war record. You'll be stunned. There wasn't anything Hollywood or Kardashian about the guy.

And that's important. You can't have a guy who's been naked in another film or crude on Letterman playing the grandson of George Bailey with the DNA of Jimmy Stewart shot into his veins. He has to be the real deal.

Who would that be?

And what would the character of Jimmy Stewart's grandson be, anyway?

Frankly, he'd be my age -- 50ish. That's hardly the stuff to thrill new audiences. And who have we got around that age? George Clooney? Brad Pitt? Johnny Depp?

Uh...sorry, nothing there that channels even a hint of George or Mary Bailey for me.

Third, there's the intangibles -- mostly, the charm of it being in black and white and set in that Christmasy place, Bedford Falls.

Such a place might have existed in 1946. They don't any more, do they? Well, maybe if it is done right this part could be accomplished. Maybe.

But that gets us back to the story: what kind of life does the grandson of George Bailey have?

I won't venture a guess. But I will say that the early information on this script is that Carolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the film, takes on a part as an angel in this film.

This confuses me. Of course, i don't know the story but if they are making angels of people why not George himself?

You can't tell me that with all the footage of Jimmy Stewart hanging around they can't find something to work with?

After all, dead celebrities are all the rage in Christmas music. Natalie Cole sang with her father and this year Susan Boyle is getting chummy with Elvis, some 35 years after he went to that big Christmas party in the sky.

Don't tell me Jimmy Stewart isn't available.

You see -- no matter what they do, it will be wrong.

Let us look no further than the 1990's version of Miracle on 34th Street.

If that movie had been released without everyone knowing the story it would have been a hit.

But we knew the story. We loved the story. We loved everything about the original.

There was simply no making it better.

And that's the problem here.

You don't mess with perfection.
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