Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

I Still Believe

Christmas comes but once a year, but good Christmas movies live long on in our hearts for many years afterwards. Such is the case of the modern classic "Miracle on 34th Street" a remake of the equally classic "Miracle on 34th Street" from 1947. Although never a fan of remakes, especially those which usually butcher a classic, I have to say that with John Hughes producing and Les Mayfield directing this remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" does more than an adequate job of updating a movie to appeal to a new generation. Staying close to the original storyline, the 1994 version of "Miracle on 34th Street" has everything which a Christmas movie needs to get you in the holiday spirit be it fun, romance, magic and a subtle wholesome message to make you feel good as well as Richard Attenborough who makes for a great Kris Kringle.

With the festive season in full flow, Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough - Jurassic Park), an elderly gentleman with a snowy white beard and a twinkle in his eye, is hired by Cole's department store to be their Santa. Kris soon becomes a hit as he fills everyone with Christmas cheer, that is everyone except for Susan Walker (Mara Wilson - Mrs. Doubtfire) the daughter of Dorey (Elizabeth Perkins - The Flintstones) the executive who hired Kris, as she doesn't believe that Santa Claus is real. But when she meets Kris something happens and slowly she starts to think that maybe Mr. Kringle is the real deal.

Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson and Elizabeth Perkins in Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

Where "Miracle on 34th Street" differs from the majority of movies that have Santa Claus as the central character, and makes it indeed much better, is that it doesn't focus on mischievous helpers or trying to deliver presents across the world, but on whether Santa Claus exists. In a world where innocence is lost at an ever decreasing age it's a joy to watch a movie whose central premise is having a belief in something which cannot be proved. But it is also a movie which delivers a message about not being selfish but looking too help others. All of which sounds a little preachy but in reality it isn't as the messages in the movie are wrapped up nicely within a heart warming story.

But what makes "Miracle on 34th Street" such a good movie is that it has that magical element which puts you in the festive mood. Everything about the movie is made with a warm feeling from the soft lighting, wintry colours as well as the fact that good wins over bad; it's all nicely set up. But there are many magical scenes as well such as Kris's ability to communicate with all children, his innocent motive of helping parents find cheaper presents even if it goes against commercial sense and of course the obviously sentimental climax which although is quite cheesy puts a smile on your face and a warmth in your heart. That's the thing, cynically "Miracle on 34th Street" is quite an obvious movie which intentionally pulls at your heart strings, but it doesn't matter as it puts you in a feel good mood.

What is also particularly good about "Miracle on 34th Street" is that it is truly a movie for all the family. It has the innocence and fun to appeal to children as well as a storyline which make older generations reminisce to an age when Christmas didn't mean commercialism. In fact it is the sort of movie which thanks to the subtle message makes you take a look at how you live your life and urges you to slow down to enjoy it.

Performance wise well Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle is undoubtedly the star of "Miracle on 34th Street" and some could say he was made for the character of Mr. Kringle. Ever single scene he has a glint in his eye and appears to be enjoying playing a role which has a bit of magic about it. You need to watch the scene where he puts on the Santa outfit, his own it must be noted, as it is pure magic. Young Mara Wilson also does very well as Susan the non believing daughter of Dorey. Typically she is as cute as a button and as the movie evolves the transformation from non-believer to believer plays out beautifully across her expressions. Thankfully her character is neither the sickly sweet or annoyingly precocious sort that generally dominates movies which feature a child star.

Sadly not all the performances are as good and although Elizabeth Perkins as Dorey and Dylan McDermott as her handsome neighbour Bryan do adequate jobs do not match up when comparing the performances in the original. This is not so much to do with their acting but rather just being out shone by Richard Attenborough and Mara Wilson.

What this all boils down to is that "Miracle on 34th Street" is without a doubt a very good remake, never straying far from an award winning formula but doing a good job of updating the classic with out losing either the magic or message of the original. Like the original I am sure that this one will become an annual favourite in the lead up to Christmas and no doubt may see itself being the subject of a remake in another 50 years. If it's just to see the magic of Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle putting on the Santa Claus gear it is worth watching.

Tags: Santa Claus, Christmas Movies