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By Chris Wallis on 21.12.2023

"Do You Believe?" Miracle on 34th Street: The Perfect Christmas Movie

When you were a child did you wait for the morning when you’d find a half-bitten carrot and an empty glass by the fireplace? What about begging to be taken to the local reindeer park to meet Rudolph? Well I certainly did. Santa Claus took my dummy when I was two years old, and brought me a Playstation when I was eleven, then that was the year that the miracle shattered right in front of my eyes. However, in the film Miracle on 34th Street, when a New-York style department store Santa gets drunk, Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins) has to find a replacement. She meets Kris Kringle (Richard Attenborough) albeit quite conveniently near where the parade is happening and he agrees to take the drunk’s place. The belief of the children in the film is evident, all but one, Susan Walker (Mara Wilson), Dorey’s six-year-old daughter. There is the ironic part in the movie where Kris sits with Susan and asks what it would take for her to believe in Santa Claus and she states that she would like a dad, a house and a baby brother.

The tension builds in the movie when Kris is set up by a rival store and jailed: however Dorey’s boyfriend, Bryan, takes the case to New York Supreme Court. In a fablesque quality, the case would not have been won without the help from Susan giving the judge a one-dollar bill with the words ‘In God We Trust’ circled. The judge realizes that, since the U.S Department of Treasury can believe in God with no hard evidence, then the people of New York could do the same for Santa Claus.

For me the ending of the film wraps all the loose ends together: With Bryan and Dorey getting married, then Kris arranging the house for the new family and the slightly ambiguous ending, with the audience left wondering if Dorey is actually pregnant or not, left me with a smile on my face. The ending can only emphasise what I believe the film’s true message to be. You can get what you want if you only believe and work hard for it.
Now with modern movies having a 3-D element some would comment that this moral fable of a movie could be outdated. For me it makes the perfect end to what is always a busy Christmas Eve, before rushing off to Mass, and then dropping to sleep to start the whole commercial cycle all over again on the 25th. So it is simple for me, Miracle on 34th Street is the traditional Christmas film for my generation, comparable to my Grandmother’s White Christmas and my Mum’s It’s a Wonderful Life because it centres around one simple question:

Do you believe in Santa?

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