It’s rare that a film targeted toward the Christmas holiday can manage to not only capture the magic of the holiday spirit and its intent, but the beauty of the human spirit. George Seaton’s iconic “Miracle on 34th Street” isn’t just about Christmas and the spirit of the yearly event, but the kindness of the human soul and the remarkable things we’re capable of when our hearts are in the right place. It’s interesting to note that though “Miracle on 34th Street” lives on as a family film and a holiday movie, George Seaton’s picture stands on its own as a raucous comedy, and one that will draw laughs thanks to some great slapstick and hilarious one-liners that still manage to hit their marks.
In many ways, “Miracle on 34th Street” is very much reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s “Harvey,” in where a seemingly eccentric and somewhat naive man operates out of the norm of society. But soon thanks to his incorrigible enthusiasm and ability to bring the best out of even the most misanthropic individuals, it never really matters of their delusion was valid. In the end, what matters is that they brought the best out of people Does it really matter of Kris Kringle is the actual Santa? In the end, the characters have gained a new outlook on their lives, and that’s really all that counts.
Very much ahead of its time, writers Valentine Davis and director George Seaton display a film about Christmas that pictures a society that is very much focused on consumerism and the mad rush of getting their money’s worth, rather than celebrating what the spirit of the holiday is supposed to mean for those celebrating it. Most of “Miracle on 34th Street” is set down on a populace that only cares about shopping and consuming and see very little magic left. These are still relevant themes and offer an entrance for Kris Kringle to change minds. Edmund Gwenn presents shades of a complex character who only seeks to make people happy and restore some semblance of innocence in an increasingly cynical world.
His journey from old nut to respectful savior of the year is one that really embodies what the film sets out to instill in the audience in the sense of holiday cheer. Whether or not he’s actually Santa Claus becomes incredibly unimportant by the very end of the film. Natalie Wood has a remarkable chemistry with Gwenn who poses a challenge to Kringle to transform her in to a child of innocence and optimism after being exposed to a world based on and around convenience and disturbing reality. Their moments of playfulness and Kringle’s insistence on providing her with simple instruments of childhood entertainment like imagination and optimism make for some of the most endearing moments, especially since Wood was a wonderful actress, even during her childhood.
What “Miracle on 34th Street” manages to capture, beyond most holiday films, is the genuine desire for magic from literally everyone, and Kris brings it ten fold to literally everyone he meets. From store owners Macy and Gimbel, to the adopted Dutch Girl he makes feel like just another child by singing with her, director George Seaton captures numerous iconic and much imitated moments on film and creates an immortal Christmas film that’s survived the evolution of film, regardless of remakes or criticism alike. With excellent performances, laugh out loud comedy, and truly touching moments of child like enthusiasm, “Miracle on 34th Street” is one of the few perfect and genuinely emotional Christmas movies that will live on forever. This is the film that will cure any scrooge.