‘Miracle on 34th Street’ Review: A True Classic

Posted in The Screening Room by - December 03, 2014

John “Santa Clause” Hammond

Guess what? It’s 23 days until Christmas Day and that is awesome. It means we have entered that special season where society tends to chill out; good tidings and cheer seem to be everywhere. The season of Miracles. It’s also that time of year where every cable network is going to ramp up that Christmas Movie Marathon. It’s kind of an interesting phenomena, really. Halloween gets its own marathon, Christmas gets its own marathon, Easter gets Passion of the Christ and Jesus Christ Superstar (if you knew that was the 1973 British musical directed by Norman Jewison, kudos to you. If you thought that was an Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice original masterpiece, then fuck you, you are what’s wrong with America. Also, fuck off Andrew Lloyd Weber), and then every other holiday gets absolutely know cinema love. This by itself is fine, I guess it’s more commentary on how Americans love the important holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Anyway, I stupidly added 5 extraordinarily meta Christmas movies to December’s list thinking it would piss Chris off, only to find out that if I wanted them to stay, I had to review them (Excellent, more work for me…).

Today’s entry in the Kulture Shocked Christmas Movie Marathon is Miracle on 34th Street and it is an amazing movie. I’m not going to say it’s Oscar worthy, but it competes well with A Christmas Story for the spot of my favorite Christmas movie. It battles with the power of belief and the spirit of the Christmas season. Now, for the purposes of this review it needs to be known that I watched the 1994 remake, so if you go look at the IMDB page for the 1947 original and think I’m wrong, I’m not and you are.  This version stars Lord Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park) as Kris Kringle, Elizabeth Parker (Weeds), Dylan McDermott (American Horror StoryThe Practice), and Mara Wilson (Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire).

First, lets do a quick synopsis of the film. Six-year-old Susan (Mara Wilson) has doubts about childhood’s most enduring miracle – Santa Claus. Her mother (Elizabeth Parker) has told her the “secret” about Santa a long time ago, so Susan doesn’t expect to receive the most important gifts on her Christmas list. However, after meeting a special department store Santa (Richard Attenborough) who is convinced he’s the real thing, Susan is given the most precious gift of all – something to believe in. All in all, the story of this movie is simple and charming. It’s not campy or cheesy, which is impressive for a mid-90s seasonal film and Dylan McDermott’s sweater-game.

All jokes aside, the most important quality this film possesses, is the stellar performance by the cast. A combination of a fairly decent script and a quality cast allows the characters to seem realistic and unforced. Richard Attenborough’s performance is probably the most impressive. In no way am I implying that he is a subpar actor, on the contrary, the way he adds depth to the character of Kris Kringle is the reason he was the leading man of England for so long. Most of the traditional Christmas films we’ll be looking at this month contain the basic, run of the mill Santa. Calm, nice, joyful, etc. However, here we have Kris Kringle getting angry and striking a belligerent Tony Falacchi (played by Jack McGee) that is verbally accosting him and accusing him being inappropriate with kids. Come on, Tony… pedophile jokes are reserved for men of the cloth, not for a beloved mythological being that has brought joy and happiness to billions.

If this movie doesn’t get you in the holiday mood, I would have to say there is something seriously wrong with you. Miracle on 34th Street dazzles with humor and a tenderness that very few films can muster. This film knows exactly what it is and it accomplishes telling its story in a sincere method that many big budget blockbuster originals can’t even compare to. All in all, Miracle on 34th Street easily cracks into my top 5 favorite Christmas films, and I think you’ll enjoy it too.

If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything…on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.

— Kris Kringle

Final Say: Watch It

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