Sunday, August 6, 2017

Movie #419: Miracle on 34th Street

Miracle on 34th Street is a remake of the 1947 movie of the same name. This version stars Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, James Remar, and Robert Prosky.

It's Christmas! And Macy's Cole's is on the verge of bankruptcy, but has managed to stave off doom for the time being. They're getting their annual parade going, and Dorey (Perkins) their...marketing person, I think fires their Santa because he's a drunk asshole. A bystander who believes he is Santa (Attenborough) steps in and kicks ass, and is subsequently hired as the Cole's department store Santa. He winds up driving a lot of consumer loyalty by telling customers that if they want a particular toy cheaper, they can find it elsewhere, which has the effect of breeding loyalty to Cole's. Which, like, that's glurgy because it's nonsense (the real response would be "OK, suckers, guess I'll buy everything at Shopper Express because I can get literally the same thing cheaper there"), but it's like the 100th most glurgy thing in the movie, so let's move on.

Dorey is an overworked single mom, but her neighbor and...boyfriend? Bryan (McDermott) is clearly in love with her and basically helps raise Dorey's precocious daughter Susan (Wilson). Much of the initial plot revolves are whether Susan believes in Santa; Dorey very reasonably tells her Santa isn't real, while Bryan insists that he is and hey, maybe that kindly old gent playing Santa at Cole's really is Santa, like he says!

Eventually, the eeeeeeevil representatives of Shopper Express (James Remar and Jane Leeves) conspire to get Santa arrested and then committed, and he winds up trial with the judge (Prosky) not really wanting say the old guy is nuts and sending him away, but not having a lot of choice (except that this being post-Reagan, if you're mentally ill but not an active threat they kick your ass straight out, so WHY IS THIS EVEN AN ISSUE), and then, I'm not kidding, he decides that since the words "in God we trust" are on money, that means the Federal Treasury recognizes the existence of God, even though there's no proof, and by that logic, the court can recognize the existence of Santa.

Fuck. You.

This movie is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the nuts. The CEO of Shopper Express is played by Joss Ackland, whom you know as Arjen Rudd, the evil bad guy from Lethal Weapon II. That's how on the nose this movie is. And while it's never explicitly proven that "Kris Kringle" is Santa for purposes of the movie's fiction, the ambiguity is never really addressed, either. Like, if he's Santa, why does he live in an old folks' home and his reindeer(?) are at a local petting zoo? Why the reference to him needing to make Susan and Dorey believe? If he's not, then where does he get his amazing Santa suit (that he's a polyglot is taken as evidence by Susan, but like, she's six)?

Add this to the weird romantic subplot where Bryan comes this close to saying he's entitled to Dorey marrying him for being such a Nice Guy when he fucking proposes out of nowhere, and the fact that "names by which I'm known" in other cultures that Kringle lists off are mostly wrong, and then there's the biggest Santa issue, which is: If Santa is real, does everyone get presents that no one bought? If so, why is believing in Santa an issue? There's proof. If not, why doesn't Santa delivery to poor kids?

I dunno. I know it's a holiday classic, I know it was fairly well-reviewed when it came out, but it just kinda leaves me rolling my eyes. I did, however, love Attenborough in the role. I love how his enthusiasm for dealing with children never dims, and of course the scene where he signs with a deaf girl (Samantha Krieger) is really sweet. I just could do without the clunky-ass faith themes, I guess.

My Grade: D+
Rewatch Value: Low

Next up: Mirror, Mirror