OK, OK. “Gritty” might be pushing it. But the plot synopsis of It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story (yes, that’s the title) has more than a twinge of the ridiculously depressing, even if it’s unintentional.
How do you even begin crafting a sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life, one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time? Well, to start, you get some pedigree in the form of Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu (she of the petals) in the original film and will earn her wings as the requisite angel character in the sequel. And according to co-producer/co-writer Bob Farnsworth, The Rest of the Story will “[retain] the spirit of the original – every life is important as long as you have friends,” which sounds like a good start.
So what’s the plot of this film going to be? Via Variety:
“[Grimes will play] an angel who shows Bailey’s unlikeable grandson (also named George Bailey) how much better off the world would have been had he never been born.”
The original It’s a Wonderful Life is already pretty depressing. There’s the suicide aspect, of course, and the “abandoning what you love” theme. And then you have the fact that self-sacrificing hero George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is, pardon my French, a bit of a jackass. Don’t get me wrong—I love it. It gives the movie depth. But seriously. Morally speaking George is a wonderful man, but personality-wise Bailey Park could’ve been called Jerksville.
But “the world would be so much better if you hadn’t been born” is beyond the pale. It’s basically A Christmas Carol, and that turned out well for Scrooge, just as I’m sure things will turn out well for not-Jimmy Stewart. But when the purpose of the original alternate universe jaunt was to convince a character not to commit suicide, it’s hard for my brain not to jump to “This sweet angel is trying to get this dude to off himself on Christmas.”
It’s a Wonderful Life: The Unintentional Psychological Thriller.