Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

I tried to watch this version of Miracle on 34th Street when I was a kid but it was so boring I stopped watching after 10 minutes. I did enjoy the 1947 version though so this year I decided to give this one another chance.

The film takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and follows the story of the original film in which a department store executive, Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins) and her young daughter, Susan (Mara Wilson), do not believe in Christmas and Santa Claus. When the Santa (Jack McGee) she hired turns out to be a drunk, Dorey hires Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough), an old man who claims to be the real Santa. Kriss quickly becomes popular and a new source of incomings for the department store, so a rival store tries to put them out of business by having Kriss arrested and declared insane. It's up to Dorey's neighbour, lawyer Bryan Bedford (Dylan McDermott), to save Santa.

Just like the original's, the story is very simple and predictable, but, while it has some dull moments, it still manages to be enjoyable enough to keep watching. The issue here is the rival store subplot. Not only it takes the attention away from the main storyline, but it weighs down the film as well. I suppose this subplot was the filmmakers' attempt at making the story more modern and give more prominence to the story's message, but it's quite ridiculous and just doesn't work.

The characters aren't as charming as they are in the original either and the reason for that is the cast. While Richard Attenborough is wonderful as Santa and brings into the film the Christmas spirit it needs, the others are barely decent, Mara Wilson easily being the worst of them all: she is cringy and unwatchable as Susan, and makes the character very unlikeable —it doesn't surprise me that she almost quit acting.

20th Century Fox
The comedy doesn't work that well either. While the original is often humorous and has a nice balance of comedy and drama, this one tries so hard to be funny, it ends up in the land of ridiculousness. The courtroom scene is the most striking example of that.

Ultimately, this version isn't terrible as the story is still engaging and Santa is very charming, but everything else is just off, not to mention that the filmmakers basically say that believing in Santa Claus is like believing in God.

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