With the realisation I might just get shot for this, I’d like to say I haven’t much favour for “Miracle on 34th Street”. It’s not normally a Christmas tick on my list, but since that opinion remains unpopular, I am reviewing it today, forcing an attempt to stay objective. Despite that, I cannot promise against a healthy dose of bias, which is hopefully not too harsh towards the picture. It stars legendary actor Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, a.k.a. secret Santa; Mara Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott. So far, every ingredient for a successful blizzard are present.
Susan Walker does not believe in Santa Clause! She is a clever, well-spoken girl and the daughter of special events director Dorey Walker, who insists on teaching truthfulness over fiction. They live in a spacious flat by the city’s centre, neighbouring handsome lawyer Bryan, who is also Dorey’s boyfriend. When Kris Kringle, an old man with a fluffy, white beard comes into their lives with a promise of fantastical proportions, nobody truly believes him. However, Dorey is in need of help and simply can’t resist the opportunity to hire him. Soon enough everyone finds themselves in the midst of a dilemma. Kris Kringle lets the rivalry between him and an ex-mall Santa get a little too aggressive, Dorey is confused about her feelings for Bryan, who seems to want more than she can offer. Little Susie is left in between the merging sides of fact and legend and she doesn’t know who to believe anymore. Hopefully a Christmas miracle can swing by, magically making everything fit into place, but can 34th street make it through?
Now, here is my issue – “Miracle on 34th Street” feels more like a court film, which happens to feature Santa Clause, than it does the other way around. It’s a film about divorce, cynicism, hopelessness and… the judicial system of the United States? The plot’s supposed culmination, which is structured around Bryan’s defence for Kringle, is riddled with holes and, to my sensibilities, utter ridiculousness. If children believe the old man is truly Santa, then by God, it must be so! The dollar trick played during Judge Harper’s final sentencing tugs so hard on the obscurity of its logic, that it barely holds the resolution together. All of this is brought on, because Santa went to jail, and trust me – not in a cute, slapstick way.
Although the picture’s last five minutes tie loose ends and make everyone get an idilic, happy ever after, that does not make up for almost two hours of downfall. To my belief, it barely holds onto the brink of a spectator’s attention only by half a hair’s width.
Besides these points, I have to say the dialogue flowed smoothly and the craftsmanship of George Seaton shun through in that aspect. This rendition is a remake of 1947’s film of the same name. So, if we have to get analytical here, perhaps the storyline Seaton envisioned would have worked better for its original release time. The era was different, entertainment was meant for grown-ups rather than children. Therefore, giving it a second life in the nineties, when television and cinema had evolved to be any man’s game, should have endured larger changes.
Performances were delivered skilfully by the main cast. Mara Wilson is somewhat of a Macaulay Culkin case, having made her name a household item back in the day. Right now, she’s off into oblivion, although making theatrical appearances here and there. Dylan McDermott has become a regular on the small screen, with a very admirable lead role in the famous “American Horror Story”.
Although I’m all for changing it up every day of the countdown, I’m not sure how much this film can move its audience. Unlike the cheerfulness of “Arthur Christmas” or the desperation in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street” manages to miss all the marks for me. It holds close to no impact, despite being dotted with touching moments. Something went wrong, but you could still enjoy it. Give the film a shot and commend bellow what you think on the subject!
Stay awesome! Only one more week until Christmas!