×

Miracle on 34th Street

There's no lack of Santa mentality in the remake of the Christmas chestnut "Miracle on 34th Street." Writer/producer John Hughes has done minor and subtle tampering with the 1947 vintage holiday yarn, and that proves both an asset and hindrance to the new version. Pic should score upbeat, not quite boffo, seasonal returns and join the Christmas club of movies in perpetual year-end television rotation.

With:
Kriss Kringle - Richard Attenborough
Dorey Walker - Elizabeth Perkins
Bryan Bedford - Dylan McDermott
Susan Walker - Mara Wilson
Judge Harper - Robert Prosky
Ed Collins - J.T. Walsh
Jack Duff - James Remar
Alberta Leonard - Jane Leeves
Shellhammer - Simon Jones
C.F. Cole - William Windom

There’s no lack of Santa mentality in the remake of the Christmas chestnut “Miracle on 34th Street.” Writer/producer John Hughes has done minor and subtle tampering with the 1947 vintage holiday yarn, and that proves both an asset and hindrance to the new version. Pic should score upbeat, not quite boffo, seasonal returns and join the Christmas club of movies in perpetual year-end television rotation.

What remain enduring and heartwarming about the tale are its themes of hope and belief. More problematic is that while the time is now, Hughes and company have done little to contemporize setting, attitude or innovation.

The background tug of war has shifted from Macy’s vs. Gimbel’s to Cole’s — a Macy’s clone — and the generic discount Shopper’s Express chain. Otherwise, the portrait of a middle class, affluent non-ethnic America is unaltered.

Through happenstance, one Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough) becomes the official Cole’s Santa. Not only does he resemble the Yuletide icon, he genuinely loves children, and through deed and action embodies the spirit of giving. And, oh yes, he just happens to be the real McCoy, so he says.

The trouble is that there are still folks who refuse to recognize the obvious. Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins), the Cole’s exec who hired him, is a prime example. Her steadfast belief that “truth is the most important thing” has also made her daughter Susan (Mara Wilson) a five-year-old doubter.

Mother and child become a significant test case for Kriss Kringle. Kriss’ trial is inadvertently helped along by the forces of evil from the discount store. They

And when the forces of evil from the discount store conspire to discredit him , his attorney (and Dorey devotee), Brian Bedford (Dylan McDermott), must prove him mentally sound. The bigger issue is whether the court is willing to suspend its disbelief.

Hughes and director Les Mayfield have wisely shifted focus to the Santa figure and have a superb St. Nick in Attenborough. Not only is he the embodiment of decency, he’s having a crackling good time bringing the character to Earth.

The young Wilson is the other stellar standout, displaying a wisdom and precociousness that enlivens material with a tendency toward the cute. Support work from Perkins, McDermott and J.T. Walsh as the prosecuting attorney elevates their otherwise familiar roles.

Though the direction tends to be predictable, this “Miracle” obviously comes with very handsome wrapping. Doug Kraner’s production design balances contemporary gloss with timeworn hues. It’s all lovingly bathed in light by cameraman Julio Macat.

The overall effect is enjoyable and cuddly like a warm fire on a cold night. It also harkens back to a bygone, simpler time. For those die-hard believers, it’s a bit disappointing that the filmmakers huddle in the past rather than press on optimistically into the future.

Popular on Variety

Miracle on 34th Street

Production: A 20th Century Fox release of a Hughes Entertainment production. Produced by John Hughes. Executive producers, William Ryan and William Beasley. Directed by Les Mayfield. Screenplay by George Seaton and Hughes, story by Valentine Davis, based on the 1947 motion picture screenplay by Seaton.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe), Julio Macat; editor, Raja Gosnell; music, Bruce Broughton; production design, Doug Kraner; art direction, Steve Arnold; set decoration, Leslie Rollins; costume design, Kathy O'Rear; sound (Dolby), Ronald Judkins; visual effects supervisor, Gregory McMurry; assistant director, Randy Suhr; casting, Jane Jenkins, Janet Hirshenson. Reviewed at Fairfax Cinema, Los Angeles, Nov. 4, 1994. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 114 min.

With: Kriss Kringle - Richard Attenborough
Dorey Walker - Elizabeth Perkins
Bryan Bedford - Dylan McDermott
Susan Walker - Mara Wilson
Judge Harper - Robert Prosky
Ed Collins - J.T. Walsh
Jack Duff - James Remar
Alberta Leonard - Jane Leeves
Shellhammer - Simon Jones
C.F. Cole - William Windom

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content