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on November 22, 2003
For every movie remake that improves on, or at least stands apart from, its original (1986's The Fly and 1999's The Thomas Crown Affair leap to mind), there are a dozen remakes like this one that serve only to remind everyone how superior the original is. Even presenting the remake in color seems like a mistake--George Seaton's 1947 original, with its black-and-white, almost documentary-like presentation, gives a realistic foundation to its fantasy concept. The 1994 remake, on the other hand, is suffused with a burnished glow that gives the film the look of a Hallmark card, with about as much depth. And don't look to the new script for help. As re-imagined by writer/producer John Hughes, the update's only new wrinkles are an "evil" toy-store chain to rival the "good" one, protracted courtroom sequences, and a finale that has neither the visual nor logical wit of the mail-delivery denouement of the original. Only the remake's strong cast makes it even remotely watchable. Richard Attenborough is a fine Kris Kringle, Elizabeth Perkins shines as a single mom, and little Mara Wilson is very appealing in the role originally played by Natalie Wood. It's also fun to see veteran heavies James Remar and J.T. Walsh take their villainy down a few notches. The only real disappointment is Dylan McDermott, who can't match the original's John Payne for rakish charm. On the whole, the only real significance of this film--except to make the original seem all the better--is to help chart the decline of John Hughes' once-promising career. Hughes raised the bar on teen comedy (Sixteen Candles,The Breakfast Club) and directed one brilliant "grown-up" film (1987's Planes, Trains and Automobiles) before giving up to oversee the recycling of other material, including his own, into enterprises whose ambitions never seemed to rise above "make lots of money." (Subsequent Hughes remakes include Flubber and 101 Dalmatians, and more Home Alone sequels than Federal law should allow.) In the end, the 1994 Miracle on 34th street is serviceable background fodder while you wrap presents or trim the tree, but if you want a movie to WATCH, get the original.
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on October 22, 2003
I saw the original when I was a little kid and I found it to be a magical and enjoyable venture. I watched this a month later, and even at my age then I thought it was horrible.
And watching it again later in my young adult life, I realize just how right I was.
The remake takes every thing magical about the original and destroys it like a crazed bulldozer. Santa doesn't speak Dutch but instead sign language - which isn't fantasic or wonderful, as there are fewer people in America who speak fluent Dutch than sign language. The court scene doesn't help Santa's case and it will make the audience NOT believe in Santa Claus. Example:
Admiral: "I ventured through the North Pole several times and didn't see any workshops or buildings."
Santa: "Of course you can't see them...they're INVISIBLE!"
Yeah...right. Any way, there are other corny lines, like the little girl's mother talking about how she has a firm, unshaky disbelief in Santa just because she didn't get what she wanted for Christmas. Huh? They also switch Macy as the enemy instead of the original where neither major store in New York was the fact Santa brought them together as friends in a scene reminescant of Carter's Camp David Accord. Finally, they left out the young janitor boy who Santa befriends in the original - this was the biggest shocker to me, as I thought he was one of the most outstanding characters in the story and added depth to Santa's character (read my review of the original to see what I mean).
So if you really want to believe in Santa and have a magical time, see the original. If you want to make your child's head explode, watch the remake.
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