Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series The 12 Days of Christmas

Released: 1994
Director: Les Mayfield

Starring: Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson


You’ll believe that Attenborough is the real Santa Claus

Last week I wrote about my favourite movie Santas and as usual I ranked my top ten in alphabetical order.  Had I ranked in order of preference there would have been no problem at all in choosing my number one.  Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle in the 1994 remake of Miracle On 34th Street is simply perfect in the role in this, one of the greatest Christmas films of all time.

Cole’s Department Store in New York hires kindly Kris Kringle as its Santa Claus and soon every child in the city is convinced that the shop really has the real Father Christmas. His honesty, charm and sincerity helps to turn the ailing Cole’s into the biggest store in town once more. The only child to remain unconvinced is Susan Walker, daughter of Kringle’s boss Dorey. Kringle has to battle to persuade Susan and the entire city of the truth of Santa’s existence after he is placed in a lunatic asylum as a result of dirty tricks from Cole’s biggest competitor.

I adore this film and was stunned to see that it only has a 59% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t love this sweet story. Attenborough is sublime as Kringle, you would have to have a heart of stone not to believe that he is the real deal. Mara Wilson is, for the most part, adorable as Susan the precocious little moppet who desperately wants to believe in Kringle despite everything that she has been brought up to know.  There are a couple of clunky moments but these are more to do with the script rather than a bad performance from Wilson.

The love story between Susan’s mother and their neighbour Bryan is a bit twee at times, but it helps to persuade Susan that Kringle/Santa is real so for that alone it was worth including. Perhaps a little less time should have been spent on this part of the story though. Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott are fine as Dorey and Bryan but the film isn’t really about them and they are rightly sidelined in the narrative.

Written by the late and much missed John Hughes, this is a film that knows where the heartstrings are and how to tug at them. Some people might accuse it of being overly sentimental but they would be wrong – there’s a fine line between slushy and moving and Miracle on 34th Street manages to stay on the right side of that line. I cry every time at the scene where Kringle talks to the little girl using sign language and when the city comes together to proclaim their belief in Santa and Kris I get all weepy again.

I love the fact that there’s such an old-fashioned feel to the film, it was clearly set in 1994 when it was made, but it has the feeling of something from 50 years earlier. Everything about the film adds to the sense of nostalgia, especially the costumes which bring to mind a much more elegant and tasteful era in fashion than the mid-90s. The film knows that we live in a cynical age, acknowledges that but does its best to remind us of a more innocent time.

I understand that it probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but those people are missing out. If you don’t believe in Santa and that Richard Attenborough is him by the end of Miracle on 34th Street then I suggest that it’s time you were visited by three ghosts as you’ve clearly lost the spirit of Christmas from your souls.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< The Santaland DiariesA Christmas Carol >>
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  1. Ahh, now this is a lovely film. It’s not one that I have in my collection but if it comes on TV I will definitely watch it!

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