MIRACLE ON 34th STREET
The remake has been nicely made. It has a fine cast, with Richard Attenborough being a natural for this type of kindly old man role and Dylan McDermott making a wonderfully handsome and inviting lead. [It is amusing to contrast the lawyer Dylan McDermott plays here with the ruthless, morally ambiguous one he later played in tvs The Practice (1997-2003)]. But then there is the film itself. Despite a 47-year difference between the remake and the original, this version is a far more conservative film. The tone of it stops just short of sermonising in the name of the Lord. At one point, Elizabeth Perkins and Mara Wilson sit down to Thanksgiving Dinner with Dylan McDermott and he asks if they will join him in saying grace.
There is the end where the court case is won when it is shown that the US Government, by placing the phrase In God We Trust on the dollar bill, confirms the existence of a higher authority. This specific piece of preaching is particularly conspicuous in that it specifically changes the way that the court case was won in the original. In the original, the court case was won when the Postal Service delivered all the dead-letter mail addressed to Santa to the court thus confirming that a US Government department believed that Kris was Santa. There was no reference to a higher authority or the existence of God. There is no reason why the old ending would not have worked this time around. There seems to be only one reason behind the change to point out that the US Government believes in the Almighty. [Ironically though, the case presented in the 1994 version would not succeed in any actual court of law, while the 1947 original presents a convincing legal argument that would get Kris acquitted. All that the dollar bill proves is that the US Government confirms the existence of God not any other supernatural entity. It does not prove that the US Government believes in Santa Claus. In order to win the case, what would be needed would be to directly prove that the Government believes that Kris is Santa. The 1947 version, with the delivering of the mail to the courtroom, however would win it establishes that the US Government directly believes in Santa Claus and that they directly believe that Kris is the Santa].
The Christian message being preached is certainly an odd one. What, after all, is one to make of Dylan McDermotts rhetorical question: We ask the court to judge what is better a lie that brings a smile or a truth that brings a tear? The religion being offered seems to be one that favours feelgood sentiment believe it because it should be true, not because it is.
Director Les Mayfield debuted with the inane revived caveman drama comedy Encino Man/California Man (1992) and next directed Flubber for Hughes. He went other direct forgettable films such as Blue Streak (1999), American Outlaws (2001) and Code Name: The Cleaner (2007). Mayfield also heads Zaloom-Mayfield or ZM Productions and has also produced a series of remakes of Disney live-action films for tv in the 1990s with The Shaggy Dog (1994), The Barefoot Executive (1995), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1995), Escape to Witch Mountain (1995), Freaky Friday (1995) and The Love Bug (1997). In genre material, John Hughes also wrote the slasher parody National Lampoons Class Reunion (1982) and the time travel comedy Just Visiting (2001), as well as directed and wrote the gonzo teen mad scientist film Weird Science (1985).