It’s time to look at a very iconic Christmas film. Miracle on 34th Street is a film that I know by reputation but I was never aware of the plot. I figured it had something to do with a kid finding out his father was a famous basketball player but clearly the sport spinoff is completely different. It’s definitely a solid film and one that holds up quite well throughout the years. Mixing Santa Claus with the court room is a recipe for success!
This movie starts off with Santa Claus deciding to take a break for a little while to see if New York understands the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately it seems that they don’t and buying gifts is all they care about. He quickly replaces drunk Santa at the annual Macy’s parade and is a big hit. His boss doesn’t believe in Santa but Mr. Claus aims to change that. Unfortunately a psychiatrist wants him out of the picture and tries to tell the world he is crazy. Santa is now in a legal battle to prove he is the real deal but the opposition has a smoking gun in the fact that they found his home address…in Long Island!
With almost every delusion there’s a point where it breaks and a point where it should burst if enough facts are provided against it. Often the individual in question will have an identity crisis, stay in denial, or suddenly be very rational about it. That’s not the case in this movie as Santa sticks to his theory that he is the real deal. Of course, nobody challenges him with the tough questions like how many presents he delivers a year or why he doesn’t live in the North Pole. We can probably assume that he was asked those questions in the original nursing home but it’s still a pretty interesting premise. The big question of course is..do I believe he is Santa? I’m going to have to say No here. I just think there are too many strikes against him. The evidence is overwhelming and leaving his cane in the House is the only impressive part by the end. I like to think he left it there to hint to the leads that they should buy the house which could be done without the supernatural. Still, even if Kris Kringle is a little deluded here, he is still a pretty fun main character. Seeing him confront the drunk Santa was pretty intense even if you could argue that the drunkard won that battle. Santa can just be a little too naive and shocked at times to take on a battle weary New Yorker.
The cast is actually pretty solid as a whole. Doris is a likable enough lead and I was on her side of the debate. She has decided to raise Susan practically. She teaches her daughter early on that Santa is fake and shows her that there is a trick behind everything. It’s certainly a different way to grow up but I can roll with it. At the end of the day there isn’t much of a reason to believe in Santa. It’s not like it’s going to help you in the future. Unfortunately the message of the film is against her and that believing in a little magic is good for you. I don’t buy into it, but at least the message wasn’t shoved at the viewer too much. As it is most of the characters don’t believe in Santa and just use him for the publicity.
The romance between her and Mr. Gailey is a little weak though. Considering that they didn’t know each other pretty well, they got serious pretty quickly. I couldn’t really get behind that, but Mr. Gailey is also a fun character. He actually comes up with strategies to improve his odds which is commendable. Getting Santa to stay at his house was certainly a brilliant nice and one that really helped him out. He was also persistent in trying to get Susan to believe in Santa even if that did turn out to be a little trickier than expected.
Susan is a nice enough kid. She can still be rather greedy for her age as she immediately asks for a huge house to put Santa on the spot. Why couldn’t you ask for a doll house or something like that? Even at Santa’s big party she comes across as a big ingrate the whole time. This was a big moment for him and all of Macy’s, you’d think she could have at least pretended to be happy. Of course, she is just a kid so I’ll try to cut her some slack but it does support my theory that often times the kids can get in the way.
The supporting cast can be pretty solid as well. Doris has a colleague who is able to quickly get on board with the Santa idea. When an opportunity presents itself you have to quickly get with the flow or be swept away. In this case Doris may have been swept away if not for this guy’s quick thinking. Santa’s jolly actions of sending customers to other stores is crazy but it brought results so of course you would want to throw your lot in with him. Mr. Macy’s is also a very reasonable character and doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. His visions of the newspaper during the court scenes were certainly handled really well. When push came to shove, Mr. Macy’s was definitely ready. The guy from Gimbles was also pretty solid but at least from this movie it’s clear who is in the lead. Gimbles is merely following while Macy’s leads. It’s pretty nostalgic to see Macy’s as well since it’s been years since I set foot in there. I should probably change that one of these days.
Really the only bad character here was the self proclaimed expert who had a grudge against Santa. That guy was definitely not even meant to be likable though. The kid that Santa mentored was also on the annoying side I suppose. I keep on forgetting that the kid even exists since he really doesn’t even serve a purpose in the story. I guess they needed a reason for Santa to hit someone and get in trouble but I’m sure we could have had other routes. Santa definitely should not have gotten in the car with the others either. You always want to let the top boss know what’s up in case things get tricky.
As always I definitely enjoyed the courtroom scenes. Seeing them debate on if Santa exists or not is definitely an interesting concept. The mail delivery may have been on the really convenient side of things but I suppose we take those. Both sides did a decent job debating and in this case I would actually be against team Santa. After all, there’s no way that guy exists even if the post office has conceded. Putting the kid on the stand was a low blow as well. This is why you always want to leave the kids home before engaging in serious business.
Overall, Miracle on 34th Street was a really solid movie. The pacing was tight and it went from start to finish quite smoothly. I wouldn’t say that it ever dragged on and the writing was solid. Kris Kringle could tow the line on whether he was a good character or simply an annoying one the whole time. For the most part I would definitely say that he was handled well though. I think making him the real Santa would have made the film even better but I suppose they wanted to keep the grounded aspect of the movie. If you haven’t seen it yet then you should definitely check the film out. It’s got heart.