Directed by Les Mayfield
Starring Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, & Mara Wilson
Christmas film review by Chris Olson
Though there may be many Christmas films, and nearly as many versions of Santa Claus, many agree that the closest we have to a true onscreen depiction of Santa is Richard Attenborough's portrayal of Kriss Kringle in the beautifully warm Miracle on 34th Street.
A remake of the 1947 version, this is the story of a man claiming to be the real deal when it comes to being Santa, who is given a job working at a department store called Coles, in New York and captivates every child and adult he comes into contact with. His success with the people, though, gets the backs up of a rival department store "Shoppers Express", who are on a mission to crush Coles, regardless of how un-merry this is! As well as possibly saving this business from destruction, Kriss also takes on the personal mission of convincing Coles employee Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins) that he really is Santa, with the help of her plucky daughter Susan (Mara Wilson), who also struggles as a non-believer.
With intensely warm colours and soft-angled framing, Les Mayfield’s film is almost a dreamlike story about a picturesque American family at Christmas. There is no small amount of hokeyness to the plot or the script, but it all seems so forgivable when wrapped in such a tender rendition of a Christmas film, and Attenborough is utterly brilliant. Few performers achieve the gravitas and humanity that he does with this endlessly portrayed character, and his depiction is the only one which shows a fragility - such as being "baited" by a rent-a-Santa whom he replaced at Coles, or being angered by a lawyer who accuses the jolly man of being insane and selfish. Overall this is actually a really meaty and deep character exploration with a lot of sumptuous trimmings.
Perkins has a tremendous onscreen conflict with her belief system, attempting to shield herself and her daughter from the lying evils of the world whilst being totally enamoured with Kriss' story. Her "it's complicated" relationship status with tireless suitor Mr Bedford (Dylan McDermott) is also thoroughly fleshed out.
One of the all-time great Christmas films, Miracle on 34th Street is a humanely moving piece of drama and light comedy, a touching story that is driven by brilliant performances and an unyielding dedication to warmth and love.