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Miracle on 34th Street(1994)
A six-year-old has doubts about childhood's most enduring miracle... Santa Claus. The arrival of one Kris Kringle, a department store Santa who believes he's the genuine article, turns the skeptical child's world upside down.
For more about Miracle on 34th Street and the Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray release, see Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on October 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson, Robert Prosky, J.T. Walsh
Director: Les Mayfield
» See full cast & crew
Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray Review
“You have the right to believe anything you want to believe.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 10, 2009
No matter what you may think about its merits as a film, the 1947 original Miracle on 34th Street is just as indelibly a part of the holiday season as mistletoe, wrapping paper, debt, overeating, and long lines at the local Wal-Mart. For a film with such a strong anti-commercialism message, though, it's a strange candidate to be remade. I mean, what is a remake besides a nostalgia-fueled cash-grab? There are notable exceptions—John Carpenter's The Thing always comes to mind—but this 1994 iteration of Miracle on 34th Street is not one of them. While it isn't slavishly devoted to recreating, note for note, the 1947 masterpiece, it's not exactly bold enough to drum up any real plot or thematic expansions of its own, and this John Hughes-produced reimagining struggles under the burden of sameness and predictability. Had the first film never existed, the remake might have made more of a mark—it is as warm and sweet as a freshly baked cinnamon roll—but with the original still commanding legions of devoted fans, this version seems completely unnecessary, a holiday redundancy on par with getting the same novelty sweater from two separate relatives. Seriously, one is enough.
Despite a few minor changes, the plot will be familiar to anyone versed in the 1947 film—that is, anyone who has ever watched cable television anytime between Halloween and December. Elizabeth Perkins, of Showtime's Weeds, plays Dorey Walker, director of special events for the fictional Cole's department store (replacing Macy's, which apparently wanted no part of the remake). Strictly professional, rational, and emotionally guarded, Dorey is basically married to her job, leaving her precocious daughter Susan (Mara Wilson) to hang out with next door neighbor Bryan Bedford (Dylan McDermott), a lawyer who has a thing for Susan's mom. When the Santa that Dorey hires for the Macy's, errr, Cole's Thanksgiving Day Parade turns out to be an drunken slob, she recruits a kindly old man (Lord Richard Attenborough, reprising Edmund Gwenn's iconic role) to don the red suit and take the reins. As it turns out, the old man is the self-professed Kris Kringle, St. Nick, yes, Santa Claus himself. No one seems to believe him—besides the legions of children who flock to Cole's every day to sit on his lap—but his is seen as a friendly, benevolent delusion. Rival department store Shopper's Express sees a chance to put Cole's out of business, however, and when they recruit the inebriated former Santa to call Kris Kringle a pedophile, Kringle takes the bait, bopping the guy over the head with his cane, and getting sent to the Bellevue mental asylum. Will Bryan defend Kringle in court and save Father Christmas? Will Dorey ditch the ice queen routine and melt under the gaze of her lawyer neighbor? Will young Susan learn to believe and get everything she always wanted—a house, a dad, and a baby brother?
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that the answer is a big fat yes on all three counts. What sort of inspirational holiday film would it be otherwise? Heartstrings are tugged, tears are jerked, and cynicism is smothered with a blanket made of faith and love. Once again, the message seems to be that belief, even wholly unsubstantiated belief, is better for the human psyche than good old empiric evidence, which apparently only makes you bitter and disillusioned, like Dorey. Near the beginning of the film, Kris Kringle tells her, "If you can't believe, if you can't accept anything on faith, then you're doomed for a life dominated by doubt." Ouch. At one point, Bryan asks the judge, "Which is worse, a lie that draws a smile, or a truth that draws a tear?" It may just be me, but I'd rather have the truth. And I'm not sure if the "it's better to believe in a comforting falsehood than to acknowledge a sad truth" idea is helpful or hurtful to the film's spiritual subtext, which is made evident when Byran uses the "In God We Trust Motto" on the back of the dollar bill to somehow "prove" that Kris Kringle is who he says he is. The whole internal logic of the resolution to the court case is untenable, and much less dramatically effective than the 50,000 letters to Santa that were used in the original.
While the film's ideology remains intact, the performances drop a notch from the classic Hollywood-style acting of the 1947 version. Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott are blander than figgy pudding, and much less likeable than Maureen O'Hara and John Payne, especially Perkins, who is too cold and cruel to win our sympathy. I will say that the relationship between the two is more fully developed this time around, as here we actually get to see them dating and getting to know one another a bit. As Susan, Mara Wilson is more playfully quizzical than the original's Natalie Wood, but she also gives off a distinct "child actor" vibe that's occasionally too cutesy and put-on for her own good. And finally, while David Attenborough is perhaps perfect casting for this remake, he'll always be in the shadow of Edmund Gwenn's, who delivered a landmark performance that was jollier and infinitely more mysterious than what Attenborough accomplishes here, impressive though it is. I can't think of a single way in which this film flat-out trumps the original, so when it comes to whether or not a remake was necessary, I remain a skeptic.
Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray, Video Quality
This updated take on a classic gets a decent visual upgrade on Blu-ray, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's about what you'd expect from a mid-1990's catalog title. Though overall clarity is adequate, the film isn't incredibly sharp, especially when it comes to fine detail. A few of the scenes look like they may have been shot with some kind of soft-focus/diffusion filter, but I also detect traces of very slight digital noise reduction in the way that the grain in the film seems smoothed out. It's not as pronounced as some of the over-zealous DNR I've seen, but you will notice that facial textures, especially, don't seem as crisp as they could be. The color palette is warm and stable, though, showing expectedly rich 'n velvety reds and skin tones that are rosy and natural. Black levels are fine throughout, with no overt crush apparent, but a slight bump in contrast wouldn't hurt during a few duller scenes. There are no show-stopping moments of high definition splendor here, but the film looks good for what it is.
Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Likewise, the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is sufficient but never superb, ample but uninvolving. Aside from the jaunty Christmas score bleeding into the rears, the surround channels don't get much play here, and during the few times when they are used, the effects are stocky and abrupt. During one scene, when a horde of children rush into the Cole's department store, their shuffling and chatter kicks in suddenly and then drops out just as unexpectedly with an almost audible click, like someone hitting a "stop" button. When the track confines itself to the front channels it proves much better, with a passable dynamic range and a mix that puts proper emphasis on dialogue. The audio is consistently coherent and clear, but this track does little to impress.
Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no supplementary materials included on this disc.
Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
When Bryan takes Susan to see Santa Claus at Cole's, Susan, ever the doubter, says, "This seems like a pretty pointless exercise." It's a sentiment that sums up my thoughts about the film exactly. Both version of Miracle on 34th Street were released on Blu-ray this week, but only the original is worth your time and money.
Miracle on 34th Street: Other Editions
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Miracle on 34th Street Blu-ray, News and Updates
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For Disney, the animated classic 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' represents many firsts. It was not only the company's first animated feature, but also the first commercially successful animated feature ever released. Today, it achieves another first as the first ...
• Miracle on 34th Street Blu-rays Detailed - August 14, 2009
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of the 1947 Christmas classic 'Miracle on 34th Street', which is scheduled to hit store shelves on October 6th. Also released that same day ...
• Fox Brings Trio of Christmas Movies to Blu-ray - July 10, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, it has been revealed that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release three holiday-themed movies on Blu-ray on October 6: the original 'Miracle on 34th Street', the 'Miracle on 34th Street' 1994 remake, and 'Home Alone ...
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