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Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Spike's Cinematic Crime #47: Has never seen the original Miracle on 34th Street

I'm probably the right age for this film, I remember seeing it when I was nine which seemed to catch me at a point where I'd accepted that Santa hadn't existed for a few years but I still had that sense of childhood wonder which made me like the possibility of Father Christmas.

Watching it again recently it's something of a mawkish wreck of a film which is completely saved by a surplus of good cheer and Richard Attenborough at his grandfatherly best.

The central thrust of the film is kind of interesting, it's just not particularly well handled and there's never any real menace to the film or doubt that this guy really is Santa. I'm imagining that the older film was probably a little more grey around this area because really I can't imagine such a toothless film being made twice.

Having said that some of the moments in the film, like the deaf girl meeting Santa, are so over the top in their sentimentality that they actually kind of work.

It does have possibly the worst example of the 'precocious devil child' which blighted a ton of movies in the 90s (this is probably something which happened all the time, but growing up I was probably hyper aware of them at the time). Seriously each time Mara Wilson appears on screen and does her 40 year old trapped in an eight year old routine I half expect the music from the Omen to start playing, so fucking terrifying.

It also has James Remar as a slimy 'neer-do-well' who is seemingly employed to be nothing other than a 'neer-do-well'. I'm used to seeing Remar as a thug in movies so when he didn't try and break Santa's kneecaps I was kind of disappointed.
post #2 of 10
You've never seen the original? Wow, man, get the fuck right on that. It's a classic. It's not grey in its depection of Kris being the REAL Santa; he does several "I know things I shouldn't know" to prove it early on, but the adults are too stubborn to take it as they should. However, it's played with such conviction by Ed Gween that you'd go along with him even if he WASN'T Santa. It's probably one of the few Christmas movies to really nail that elusive "Christmas Spirit" on film, whereas the remake was just a beat for beat mimicry.
post #3 of 10
Heh, yeah I noticed this was on today too. I could only handle so much of before I switched it off. The girl that I worryingly recognised from Matilda (Wilson) is definitely evil.

Attenborough is just so jarring in any role - like his existance in any film is some kind of meta gag that i'll never get my head around.
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Attenborough looks like he's constantly about to offer you a Whethers Original.

And I'll try and find the original version of the film, I'm not even sure if it exists in this country though.
post #5 of 10
A Lovefilm search brings it up - and with good reviews too! My search gave me a choice between that and Massacre Of 34th Street.

Tough one.
post #6 of 10
If Santa is real, how could adults possibly not know? Every year there'd be presents that show up for their kids that neither parent have bought.

This is the stupid nagging thought that ruins these kinds of movies for me.
post #7 of 10
Let's not forget the 70s remake with Sebastian Cabot at Kris.

Actually, on second thought, yes, let's forget it.
post #8 of 10
This film is unnecessarily nasty for a remake. That's the best way I can think of to describe it. I'm no prude, but there's absolutely no need for that scene where the guy makes those innuendos about Santa's elf. They really bash the audience over the head, as if they can't trust us to suspend our disbelief or they think that a more modern audience needs more cynicism up front to make the payoff work. See also: the whole marriage thing at the end. No need. Also, the "in God we trust" thing is so, so, so fucking lame. So lame. (But I did have a crush Elizabeth Perkins in this.)

In short: Spike, see the original.
post #9 of 10
Logic question:

If you are a child who believes in Santa Claus, would this movie make sense to you? Because, from your perspective, Santa really does exist and this fact is (most likely) backed up by your parents and various other medias. So how could you understand the motivation of the adults in this film. The entire film's premise is about whether or not Santa really exists which is something you've (probably) never even questioned.

This is not a movie for children.
post #10 of 10

Watched this last night with the missus as it was on television.

 

The movie is worth it alone for the aforementioned scene with the deaf girl, mostly for the bittersweet sadness on Attenborough's face when the mother first tells him. I also appreciated Kringle's offhand explanations for how Santa's magic works (slowing down time, the workshop at the north pole being in a "dream").

 

If I was a braver man I'd argue this movie (well, the original really) set a precedent for modern fiction's handling of the fantastic. Base everything in reality while only hinting at the classic concept.

 

Still, even with the weird combination of modern cynicism and old fashioned sentimentality, which is totally a John Hughes trait, it does get across its theme of embracing imagination and the power of faith.
 

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