It was never going to be easy for this 1994 remake of the Christmas classic Miracle On 34th Street to capture the charm of the beloved original.
Writer and producer John Hughes was no stranger to holiday-themed movies after the success of the Home Alone franchise so if anyone was going to make it work, it would have been him. The inspired casting of Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle right away should have been a clue that we were in safe hands. Indeed, there aren't many on-screen Santas who are more charming than Attenborough's in this film and that's with no confirmation at any point that this Kris Kringle is the real thing. Real or not, this Santa certainly feels like the real deal. Elizabeth Perkins plays Dorey, a mother who fears any kind of disappointment, going as far as to teach her daughter Susan (Mara Wilson) about how Santa doesn't exist, and who is reluctant to give a relationship with Dylan McDermott's friendly lawyer (paradox?) a chance.
When she sees how genuinely fond of Christmas Kris Kringle is, Dorey offers him the job of Santa for the Thanksgiving parade organized by Cole's Department Store and for the entire holiday season. He is a roaring success but the new store across the street is obviously not too pleased so the owner sends his minions to try and frame Kringle by pushing him to get angry then accusing him of assault. The plan works and Kringle is arrested and sent to a psychiatric hospital causing a storm of bad press to sweep the city. Feeling guilty, Kringle is at first reluctant to fight back, not wanting to ruin the image of Santa Claus for children, but Dorey's family soon convinces him they can clear his name and a famously unusual trial follows. The film is packed with Christmas spirit, the cast is likeable and even with the odd cheesy moment, this is one charming Christmas movie.
The original is a classic but this Miracle On 34th Street is a worthy remake with enough humour and wonder to make it an enjoyable watch for adults and kids alike during the holiday season. Attenborough steals the show but this is a fun, well-made Christmas flick all around.