Kirkkitsch’s Blog

Watching: Xmas Edition
December 23, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: Movies, Reviews

Miracle On 34th Street– First off, I was surprised I didn’t already own this DVD. Even though I’ve never seen it in its entirety, it’s one of those Christmas titles that’s a must-have at Christmastime, whether you’ve seen it or not.

Synopsis: When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

First off, the casting is perfect. Adorable Natalie Wood as the jaded non-believer; Maureen O’Hara (one of the best things about The Parent Trap) is beautiful, as is her love interest, John Payne (ROWR!); and, of course, Edmund Gwenn radiates the spirit of Santa Claus. Then there’s William Frawley…blech. He was tolerable on I Love Lucy (as Fred Mertz), but that’s about it for me. He just ends up annoying me. He’s basically the same character in every movie.

And speaking of Frawley, one of my favorite stories about him goes as follows: Despite the fact that they played husband and wife on I Love Lucy, Frawley and Vivian Vance disliked each other intensely. Part of it was the real life age difference between the two (Frawley was 22 years Vance’s senior), but essentially it was a clash of two driving, strong personalities. Vance and her fourth husband were dining out when they heard Frawley had died. Upon receiving the news, Vance reportedly shouted, “Champagne for everybody!”.

Anyway, back to my review. I loved this movie. One of the things I love about this movie, and it probably sounds odd, is seeing the interior of a department store, circa the 40’s. It must have been an ‘event’ just to go shopping back then. Having just gotten back from the mall, I can only imagine what department stores were like in their heyday: charming, beautiful and extravagant. *sigh* I think that’s one of the reasons I love The Marx Bros.’ The Big Store so much too (circa 1941).

Overall, the movie is great. The cast, sets and story all come together in a neat little package (pardon the pun). I enjoyed this movie so much, I was tempted to watch the 1994 remake. Oy. That review is next.

Miracle on 34th Street (1994)- This one didn’t cut the mustard. Maybe the cheese, but not the mustard.

The premise is the same as the original (*see above). And although I love Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott, I felt Richard Attenborough didn’t really sell me on his Santa. I think the short beard and yellow teeth were factors. And don’t even get me started on Mara Wilson (p.s. Have you seen her lately? yikes.) Yes, she was adorable in Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda was fun, but how long can you milk that wide-eyed, lisp? One IMDB reviewer summed it up perfectly:

WAY too many sappy close-ups of Mara Wilson’s would-be “cute” expressions (of which she has exactly one, used ad nauseum in both this and Mrs. Doubtfire).

I enjoyed the look of the film, it was bigger than life, colorful and very Christmas-y, however it didn’t feel like a classic. I love John Hughes (he wrote the screenplay) and this felt like a John Hughes project (by way of Home Alone), but I didn’t like certain elements that were added to the mix; primarily the whole Christianity angle. And yes, I realize how that sounds, considering that Christmas is the epitome of Christianity. And though it wasn’t like they hit you over the head with it, the fact that it was there to begin with, was a turnoff for me. Examples: (A) The ginormous lit cross on the side of a skyscraper, prominently displayed between a walking hand-in-hand Perkins & McDermott. (B) The new ending incorporating ‘In God We Trust’. And don’t even get me started on the whole haphazard wedding. Oy.

Overall, the movie was alright. I definitely wouldn’t own it or recommend it. Though I’m not a purist, I’m siding with the purists on this one: stick to the original.

The Christmas Wish (AKA The Great Rupert)- This has become a staple for me at Christmastime. I’d never seen this movie, but picked it up a few years ago whilst working at a video store. I ended up falling in love with it and have since shown it to several friends.

Synopsis: A little squirrel with lots of charm accidently helps two poor, down-but-NOT-out families overcome their obstacles.

The film was actually made in 1948, but not released until 1950. Regardless, you can definitely tell this is a film circa the 40’s. I, personally, love the look of the movie, though sidewalk and park scenes are obvious sets. I think it only adds to the charm. Though I am not a big Durante fan, I enjoy him in this film…though the wacky schtick can wear thin after repeated viewings.

One interesting bit of trivia (via IMDB): The stop-motion animation used in creating the illusion of a dancing squirrel (Rupert) was so realistic that director George Pal received many inquiries as to where he got a squirrel that was trained to dance.

If you can find this movie (it’s really cheap, since it’s in the public domain), I’d recommend you take a chance on it. The version I have, under the title A Christmas Wish has both the black and white and colorized versions (personally, I prefer the black & white version). Guaranteed Christmas cheer.

*The picture quality is significantly better than the clip I’ve included here.

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