The Way Hollywood Liberals Just Changed ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Will Make You Angry
The charity table read is easily the bane of 2020.
If you aren’t familiar with the phenomenon, here’s a primer: Because we’re so starved for entertainment, Hollywood assumes we’re in a position to pay money to watch a bunch of stars does a dramatic reading of a movie script over video conference. Thus, we round up a motley crew of bored talent, either from the original work or fresher faces — usually playing against type — to engage in a Zoom re-enactment of a film you used to love.
Except without the picture. Or the music. Or the special effects.
The hook is supposed to be a demonstration of Tinseltown bonhomie, a reminder that we’re all in this together. Turn that frown upside-down, America — here’s Jennifer Aniston, Jimmy Kimmel, Morgan Freeman, Shia LaBeouf and others in a table read of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High!” (I wish I were making that up, but this is our reality now.)
At least there’s nothing culturally sacrosanct about a high school sex/stoner comedy from the 1980s, one that Freeman can only improve. When you’re talking about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” things are different.
Particularly when you’re talking about Pete Davidson as George Bailey.
Yes, according to Deadline, the 27-year-old Davidson — best known for his time on “Saturday Night Live” and his active dating life — will take the role played by Jimmy Stewart in the 1946 original.
“We are so thrilled to have Pete reenact the role of George in It’s a Wonderful Life with his talented wit and clever vocalizations,” Matthew Asner of The Ed Asner Family Center, which is putting on the Dec. 13 production, said in a statement Monday.
The cast includes several other stars you know and tolerate, such as Mia Farrow, Ellie Kemper, Carol Kane, Ed Begley Jr., Bill Pullman and Michael Shannon.
It’s Davidson’s casting, however, that’s raising the most eyebrows — and not just because Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey was never quite known for his “talented wit and clever vocalizations.”
You might remember Davidson for his infamous remark about Texas GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch in a 2018 episode of “Saturday Night Live”: “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie,” Davidson said, followed by, “I’m sorry. I know he lost his eye in war — or whatever.”
You may also remember his on-air apology afterward.
What you might not remember is that he un-apologized for that: “I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” he said during his 2020 Netflix comedy special, according to The Hill. “It was like words that were twisted so that a guy could be famous. … So I made fun of this guy with an eye patch and then, like, I kind of got forced to apologize.”
You might also not remember this joke he made about R&B singer R. Kelly, who stands accused of numerous counts of sexual abuse, mostly against young women: “This guy is a monster, and he should go to jail forever,” Davidson said on SNL in March of 2019. “But if you support the Catholic Church, isn’t that like the same thing as being an R. Kelly fan? I don’t really see the difference, except for one’s music is significantly better.”
That line, according to The Washington Post, “drew some titters and stunned ‘oooooohs’ from the audience.” When the audience of “Saturday Night Live” is genuinely shocked about a joke Pete Davidson made about the Catholic church, I would posit there are issues with it.
This isn’t to say Davidson is an unalloyed villain. He’s been admirably open about his struggles with mental-health issues. He’s done charity for firefighting causes, having lost his father, a New York City firefighter, on 9/11. But that still doesn’t make him George Bailey material, something Twitter took note of:
What we should probably remember in regard to recasting “It’s a Wonderful Life” is just how outsized of a shadow the film casts over American holiday lore. Mostly forgotten until a legal quirk meant it entered the public domain in the 1970s, the film has been shown repeatedly on television during the Christmas season, turning it into a holiday classic.
It’s a film with an explicitly Christian message about family, faith, and priorities, something that’s an anachronism in the liberal Hollywood of today. In no small part, it works because Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey. It was hardly a reach to cast him in the role.
As for Davidson, this is casting against type with an actor who’s shown no competence getting outside his comfort zone. Not only that, but it’s casting that feels like it’s being done solely because it generates buzz around the production. All publicity is good publicity, at least as far as table reads go.
Yes, it’s just a table read. It’s an expensive one, with tickets going from $50 to $250 to watch Davidson and Co. perform over Zoom. The original movie can be streamed on Amazon Prime or purchased for far less than those tickets on any number of digital services.
If you still have $50 to $250 lying around, give it to a charity that doesn’t feel the need to vulgarize “It’s a Wonderful Life” because it wants your money.
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