I'm a sucker for Christmas films in all their forms. Like Halloween fans enjoy their horror films, I love my Christmas films. Like I explained in my review of Ron Howard's remake of 'The Grinch,' Christmas movies hold a special place in movie collections. They are the films that without a doubt get watched over and over again, year after year. If you feel the Christmas spirit, and it reminds you of the season, then the movie has fulfilled its job.
The original 'Miracle on 34th Street' is a classic in every sense of the word. It's right up there with 'White Christmas' and 'It's a Wonderful Life.' In 1994, John Hughes wrote the screenplay for the remake of 'Miracle on 34th Street.' Some people were annoyed at the idea of remaking a classic, but we're talking about a Christmas movie here. Its goals are limited to making you think and feel Christmas. That's it. To over-analyze such a film would do it an injustice.
Hughes didn't aim for a direct recreation of the original film. Instead he added his own touches here and there to bring the story into a more up-to-date world, while retaining its familiar charm.
Dorey Walker, played by Elizabeth Perkins ('Weeds'), is the coordinator for special events for Cole's department store, which is the Macey's equivalent in this movie's universe. They run the big Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, which officially ushers in the Christmas season. When their would-be Santa Clause is found drunk and unable to perform his duties in the parade, Dorey enlists the help of Mr. Kringle, played by Richard Attenborough ('Jurassic Park'). Turns out he thinks he's the real deal, he certainly fits the part of Santa Claus.
He's quickly hired on as the department store Santa to greet the kids. Walker's daughter, Susan is a tad apprehensive. She's young, but doesn't believe in Santa because her Mother has seen fit not to fill her head with such ideas and fantasies. Rounding out the cast is a handsome young lawyer played by Dylan McDermott ('The Practice'), who is trying his hardest to get Dorey to think of him as more than just a friend.
The remake of 'Miracle on 34th Street' is predictable yes. We know everything that will happen, but it's the way that it happens and the performances that make this a movie that can be watched repeatedly. Attenborough is fantastic as always, adding a heavy helping of jovial charm to the part of St. Nick. Little Mara Wilson ('Matilda'), who plays Susan is spunky with a dry wit about her.
When Santa becomes embroiled in a bitter courtroom battle to determine if he is who he says he is, the whole city of New York comes to his rescue.
I enjoy watching this film every year, along with the original. Sure it's a remake, but it's remade by one of the best writers of his time. John Hughes added his style to an old classic and gave it a refreshing facelift. I love both movies. It seems some people think it's impossible to love a remake as well as the original, but they both have just as much heart. And what can I say? I still get choked up during the speech by the judge.
This is a film that deserves to be in the holiday rotation as the time looms closer. It's cheery, and represents the Christmas season well.
The 1080p transfer with an AVC encode is definitely a step up to the blurry DVD presentation, but it isn't something that will “wow” the masses. It's adequate enough, and ups the detail level, but it still takes on a softer look. Much of its softer look comes from the way it was filmed. It gives the film more of a whimsical, magical film. DNR does raise its pesky head every now and then, but it isn't taken to any extremes. There are moments when you can tell facial textures have been tampered with, giving them an ever-so-slight waxy appearance. I must say though, for a film from 1994, I was expecting to actually see more remnants of DNR being used. Thankfully, it is kept at a minimum. A few occurrences of source noise are visible throughout the film, appearing as blips or specks, but it isn't anything that will detract from the overall presentation of the film. Colors work nicely here, reds and greens, are richly rendered. Blacks are consistently deep and well defined. Overall, this is a fine transfer given the age of the film. It isn't something that will be used as demo material, but it is a very noticeable upgrade from the DVD.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 provided here is sufficient for what it needs to accomplish. With this front heavy movie, the dialogue is presented crisply. Surround sound effects suffer though. Crowded stores sound oddly silent when there should be hustle and bustle. The Cole's parade, doesn't give off the effect of crowded streets and thousands of people milling about. The only aspect of the audio track that gets much surround treatment is the Christmas song-filled soundtrack, which for all the misgivings of this audio track's surround sound, at least the Christmas songs are presented with the clarity and cheeriness that they are meant to be.
Fox treats everyone like a kid getting coal on Christmas by not providing on special feature on this disc. Not one! This is worse than getting socks instead of that video game you wanted.
Sure this remake didn't reinvent the Christmas movie genre, but it did provide the world with another Christmas movie to add to the year end rotation. Instead of trying to replace a classic, this remake complements the original and is fun to watch in conjunction with it. It has to-be-expected moderately nice video and audio presentations, and is worth adding to any Christmas movie collection.