Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

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Released 30-Oct-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 109:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (39:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Les Mayfield
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Richard Attenborough
Elizabeth Perkins
Dylan McDermott
J.T. Walsh
James Remar
Mara Wilson
Robert Prosky
Case Six-Sided Star Clamp
RPI $36.95 Music Bruce Broughton


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Amongst the onslaught of DVDs released for the Christmas rush, there were inevitably a few titles with a Christmassy theme that got a release. Ordinarily there is nothing wrong with that but in this instance I do have a mild objection, for what we have here is a remake of one of the Christmas classics of all time - Miracle On 34th Street. Now I will admit that this is not a bad remake and far superior to several other atrocious efforts, but at the end of the day it simply cannot compare with the original 1947 film in any way.

    For those who may not have seen the 1947 film, the story of that film is centred around one Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn). Kris is something of an expert on Santa Claus for one simple reason - he is Santa Claus. And he takes his job very seriously, so when he discovers that the hired Santa for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is slightly inebriated, he gets roped in as a short notice replacement by the parade organiser Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara). So believable is he that everyone is enthralled by him and he gets hired to be the Santa at Macy's for the rest of the season. Unfortunately Doris is a non-believer, and has brought her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) up to be a non-believer and so Kris sets out on a mission to convert them. Aiding Kris is rising legal star Frederick Gailey (John Payne) who loves Susan and also wants to get to know Doris better. Everything starts well enough at Macy's but the store psychologist believes Kris to be insane, to the extent of misrepresenting his mental health to the store after Kris has a disagreement over his methods. And so Fred ends up with the unenviable task of proving in court, to a politically minded Judge Henry Harper (Gene Lockhart), that Kris is indeed who he says he is. Along the way of course, everyone has their beliefs reaffirmed or rekindled by this man who does nothing more than bring the true spirit of Christmas to everyone he meets.

    Well okay, there are a few changes to the 1947 film as above: Kris Kringle becomes Kriss Kringle and is played by Richard Attenborough and not Edmund Gwenn, Macy's has become Coles, Doris has become Dorey and is played by Elizabeth Perkins, daughter Susan is played by Mara Wilson, the up-and-coming legal star is now Bryan Bedford played by Dylan McDermott and Judge Henry Harper is played by Robert Prosky. But the rest of it is just about the same as the 1947 film, with the exception that the episode with the store psychologist is replaced with a setup of Kriss Kringle in the street that leads to an assault (obviously more 1990s than shenanigans in the store psychologist's office).

    One of the great problems for any remake is the fact that comparisons with the original are absolutely inevitable and usually not in favour of the remake. Such is the issue here: as charming a performance as Richard Attenborough gives, it simply cannot compare to the Oscar-winning performance of Edmund Gwenn in the 1947 film. With the best will in the world, the attractive Elizabeth Perkins is no match for Maureen O'Hara and the doe-eyed Mara Wilson falls way behind the performance of Natalie Wood in the original film. Basically, if you have seen and enjoyed the original film, then this is going to be a bit of a chore to watch. That, however, is not to say that this is not a bad film in its own right, for it certainly is. If you have never seen the superior original then you will probably be very satisfied with what we have here.

   Whilst I would strongly recommend the 1947 original over this remake from 1994, if you absolutely must have this version then there is certainly nothing much awry with the DVD to dissuade you.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film might not be a classic, but Fox Home Entertainment has certainly given it a rather decent transfer indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is generally quite sharp, with just the odd lapse here and there in focus, although through much of the rest of the transfer, one could have wished for a bit more in the sharpness stakes. Detail is more than adequate, including shadow detail, but again it is not right up there with the very best that we have seen. Clarity is excellent and there is hardly a hint of grain at all. There is nothing in the way of low level noise here, either.

    The colours are beautifully saturated and have a nice rich tone to them throughout. Indeed, even after watching something as visually stunning as Walkabout, this looks a treat. There is a nice vibrancy to the colours, and the whole is completely believable. There is nothing approaching under or oversaturation in this transfer, and there is no indication of colour bleed at all.

    My notebook is completely absent of any notes relating to MPEG artefacts, film-to-video artefacts or even film artefacts in the transfer. If there are any in the transfer, then they obviously are not that noticeable.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming mid-scene at 39:45. Even though it is mid-scene it is pretty well handled and not that disruptive to the flow of the film.

    There are eleven subtitle options on the DVD, but I only sampled the one - English for the Hearing Impaired. They are nicely presented in a white font that is easy to read. They are reasonably accurate with slightly more instances of missing words than has been the case in recent DVDs from this source.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. Whilst some will bemoan the fact that we do not have a full 5.1 soundtrack, really and truly the film has no need for a low frequency effects channel at all.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and is quite easy to understand, barring some of Mara Wilson's dialogue. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original score comes from Bruce Broughton and just like the original film it is nothing especially memorable. However, it suits the dialogue-driven film well enough and does enough to support the film where necessary.

    There really is nothing wrong with the soundtrack at all, being a thoroughly competent example of Dolby Digital sound without pushing any sorts of envelopes nor providing anything terribly memorable in the sound department.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A rather non-existent package from Fox Home Entertainment, once again noteworthy for not including an extra listed as a special feature on the slick.

Menu

    Featuring a bit of audio enhancement, that is the extent of the noteworthiness.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is no substantial difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases.

Summary

    Miracle On 34th Street is a competent enough remake of the 1947 original, which remains the superior choice film in every way. Still, it has been given a very good transfer in all respects even though the package is let down tremendously by the lack of any extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, December 28, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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