With Advent rushing by and Christmas just around the corner, I've also decided to start a series of Christmas movie reviews. I'm kicking my reviews off with one of my family's favorites: Miracle on 34th Street (1994).
Yes, this is a remake of an older, even more beloved 1947 George Seaton film. Les Mayfield is the director here, and I'm not sure if Mayfield or his cinematographer is to be credited for the film's glossy beauty, but it certainly fits a film with the word 'Miracle' in the title. The production is led by a trio strong adult actors, Elizabeth Perkins, Richard Attenborough and Dylan McDermott, and anchored by a gifted youngster, Mara Wilson.
The plot's summary is thus: A lonely, albeit well-off, single mother Mrs. Walker (Perkins) and sweet daughter Susan (Wilson) find some much-needed Christmas cheer when Kris Kringle (Attenborough) arrives to save the day at a flagship 34th Street store. Christmas charm sweeps through the city. When Kris Kringle's reality is questioned, the question becomes one of the nature of belief itself in ideas such as faith, love and goodness.
The film shows a world of Hallmark-style beauty while hinting at larger, more purposeful questions. Attenborough, he's our Santa, conveys wisdom, warmth, sincerity, and an understanding of human nature. We trust his character not because of who he says he is, but because of what he projects. The character channels a spirit of humanity and generosity. He's more Saint Nicholas than of a toy-making Arctic-dweller named Santa Claus.
McDermott plays Bryan, the all-around good guy who's also in love with Mrs. Walker. He's the knight in shining armor in a three piece suit, and he's dreamy, not just because of his blue eyes (which are beautiful), but because he brings earthiness, a touch of sly humor, and a necessary masculine energy into the film. As Mrs. Walker, Elizabeth Perkins has probably the hardest job--conveying a woman who tries to shut out the world, while also silently drawing the audience in. Its not easy doing both at once, but she manages it. The film's Susan, Mara Wilson, somehow manages to show us in the simplest terms the struggle and the desire to believe.
This isn't a film that discusses Christ, but it is a film that discusses the nature of belief, and how goodness, and faith in something good, can inspire others. The aesthetic is beautiful: carefully tailored clothes that hearken back to 1940s silhouettes, soft lighting.
Its a charming film and one which will get you in the holiday spirit.
Review: **** Four Christmas Trees out of Four
Content Warning: None.