Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
“Experience the Miracle.”
Miracle on 34th Street (1934)
Director: Les Mayfield
Cast: Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott
Synopsis: A six-year-old brought up by her businesswoman mother to believe that Santa Claus doesn’t exist has her beliefs challenged when she meets Kris Kringle.
The original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street was a tough act to follow – a forgettable TV movie version failed dismally in the early 1970s – but this 1994 version does as well as can be expected. Richard Attenborough’s (All Night Long) interpretation of Kris Kringle, the sweet-natured old man who believes he’s Santa Claus, can’t compare to Edmund Gwenn’s but he does grow on you as the film unfolds. The same goes for Mara Wilson, who lacks the level of cuteness possessed by a childhood Natalie Wood, and who isn’t even given the opportunity to mimic a monkey the way her predecessor was.
The plot more or less remains the same, although the manner in which the judge presiding over the case of whether Santa Claus really exists arrives at his decision has been changed for some reason. It’s a change that adds nothing to the story, yet neither does it detract from the original – it’s just different. All the characters involved follow the same arc, with Dylan McDermott’s (‘Til There Was You, Texas Rangers) lawyer successfully wooing Elizabeth Perkins’ pragmatic businesswoman who has brought up her daughter (Wilson) to reject myths and legends as mere fiction. But the 1994 version lacks the warmth of the original, despite the 1947 version being shot in black-and-white while Les Mayfield’s movie makes use of rich colours and some elaborate sets. The sign-language scene is a choker, but you’ll still get a warmer glow from the original.
(Reviewed 24th December 2014)