MRR Christmas Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street

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A little girl discovers dreams do come true if you really believe. Six-year-old Susan has doubts about childhood's most enduring miracle - Santa Claus
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Movie Review: "Miracle on 34th Street"

-- Rating: PG

Length: 114 minutes

Release date: Nov. 18, 1994

Directed by: Les Mayfield

Genre: Drama / Family / Fantasy

"Miracle on 34th Street" is a classic Christmas movie set in the modern age where the court of law becomes the authority on the existence of Santa Claus. The original version of the movie was released in 1947. Almost fifty years later, the lessons learned and questions posed in the film are still relevant to movie audiences and will remain so well into the future.

This version of "Miracle on 34th Street" takes place in a New York City department store named Cole's. Cole's and its neighboring shops are in a battle for the consumer's Christmas-shopping dollars, making the holiday all about marketing and sales. Cole's must increase its sales this holiday season, or it will go under. Meanwhile, an old man (Richard Attenborough) with a white beard and hair becomes a part of the Cole's family by saving their Christmas float from a drunken hired Santa and then taking the job as the department store's official Santa. This man has his own ideas of what Christmas means, and the Cole's sales goals are not even close.

Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins) is in charge of bringing Christmas to Cole's, although she did not believe in the spirit of the holiday. Her daughter Susan (Mara Wilson) doesn't either. Susan finds out that there is magic in the holiday and their store Santa may be the real thing. However, instead of settling for being the marketing savior for Cole's department store, Santa gets in trouble with the law and must prove his sanity in court by proving that he is the real Santa. The legal trouble comes as the Cole's rivals try everything in their power to get the popular Santa off the street. He is taking customers and holiday sales dollars away from their businesses, and they use deceit to get Santa arrested.

Santa does lose hope and faith in himself at the lowest point in the film. He is placed in jail and is consigned to stay there because no one believes in him. It takes Susan and Dorey's friend Bryan (Dylan McDermott) to convince Santa that people do believe that he's Santa. Bryan is charged with the task of helping convince the court that Santa does indeed exist and that this Santa isn't guilty of the charges posed against him.

Proving that there is a Santa is the quandary of this wholesome holiday movie. The adults and children seem to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. Believing, helping those in need, experiencing the true magic of holidays are the main things that make "Miracle on 34th Street" a classic. The actors take on what are now iconic roles as if they were being played for the very first time. Perkins is the pessimistic single mom who is consumed with work and jaded about all things magical. Wilson plays a serious child who has inherited her mother's beliefs. McDermott plays the role of the love-struck friend who is trying to find a way to show how he feels while helping a little girl see the wonders of childhood.

The movie does preserve the comedic moments similar to those performed in the original film. The moment when the drunken Santa flips the sleigh does generate some laughs. A courtroom scene where Bryan uses the prosecuting attorney to prove his case is also a funny moment in the film. These scenes help break up the drama, so the film flows like a holiday family film should. Susan's words in the final scene offer another comedic moment that parents can appreciate.

Among the roster of producers is John Hughes, a writer and director known for his classic youth-driven movies in the '80s and '90s. His work on this film could be what keeps things from becoming too cheesy or vastly overdramatized. He works alongside director Les Mayfield and other producers to create a successful modern remake of a classic Christmas story.

"Miracle on 34th Street" is a film that easily fits in the holiday movie must-have category, alongside other modern classics such as "A Christmas Story" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." The power of believing in something bigger than yourself and the magic of Christmas are things that the audience will learn from the film, without the preachy tone of most other holiday movies. "A Miracle on 34th Street" is a holiday movie that the entire family will enjoy for many years to come.

Rating 3 out of 5 stars.

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