It is easy to dismiss It's a Wonderful Life, and indeed, people have been doing so since the film's release in 1946. Too sentimental, too hokey, too loaded with Frank Capra's hopeful humanism -- all these complaints, and more, have been fired at It's a Wonderful Life over the years. People still watch It's a Wonderful Life, sure, but you have to ask how much of this is based in the two most corrosive reasons to watch a film -- camp and tradition. Watching a film only so you can dissect it with the sharp blades of irony can blind you to its real virtues; you look for stereotypes, not performances; listen for often-quoted lines of dialogue without ever hearing them; see scenes in the context of their pop-culture parodies instead of as what they are.

So, the virtues of It's a Wonderful Life are often ignored by detractors. I'd also put forward that the virtues of It's a Wonderful Life are, in some way, occasionally ignored by the people who love it. It's a Wonderful Life is part of the American film canon, sure, but the canon is a cage -- placing movies on pedestals can put how good they actually are out of our minds. And hurling a film on every year because you're used to doing so can turn it into something seen but unwatched, the cinema equivalent of a nativity crèche or an artificial tree: It gets pulled out every December, put away soon after, forgotten until next year.
categories Features, Cinematical