Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Review: Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

When the original Miracle on 34th Street [1] was made, the movie producers weren't allowed to use the names of Macy's or Gimbels until both companies had seen and approved of the final cut of the film.[2] This time around Macy's refused to be involved in the film and Gimbels had gone out of business. So two fictional stores were invented to take their places: Cole's was invented (similar-sounding to the modern store Kohl's) and Shopper's Express (which I can't help think was modeled after Wal-Mart). They also take the theme of belief in Santa one step further and add a subtext about religious belief.[3]

Early in the film three of the main characters (Dorey, her daughter Susan, and their next-door neighbor, Brian) sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. Bryan asks if he can say a blessing on the food, but he doesn't invoke Deity at all. I'm not sure why they completely desacralized the prayer—doesn't that undermine the message of the film? It soon becomes clear that Bryan is romantically interested in Dorye, but his timing is always off. He asks Dorey on a date right after she chews him out for interfering with her parenting. And when he finally does get his first date with her, he jumps the gun and proposes to her. No wonder she always shuts him down.

My verdict: Perhaps this will get me lynched, but I like this version just as much as the original. There is some excellent casting and acting in this film. I particularly liked the 'drunk Santa' and C. F. Cole (who replaces R. H. Macy), who makes an interesting villain with a surprisingly prosaic mode of speech. I was less impressed with the actress who played Susan in this one, but more impressed with the actor who played Brian (vs. the actor for Fred Gailey in the original). The court argument is no more (nor less) convincing or satisfying that that of the other movie.[4] I like the ending of this one a little better. My favorite part of the movie is the scene with Kris and the deaf girl. My least favorite part is the mother who wants to buy a "Barf Gun"—why did anyone think that was a good concept for a toy?


[1] Read my review here.

[2] See (scroll down to Story Notes).

[3] This makes me wonder if Richard Attenborough's involvement is a counterpoint to his brother David's avowed agnosticism (see Attenborough#Religion and creationism).

[4] There are those, however, who would like to see this scene become obsolete. See God We Trust#Controversy.

Image attributions:

Macy's Santa is by Kevin Harber, available at 

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