For most, the only "right" answer when asked which version of Miracle on 34th Street you might be watching is "the original" (starring Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood). However, I have tons of friends who actually prefer the 1994 remake (with Elizabeth Perkins and Mara Wilson). Perhaps this is because we were just kids when that hit theaters, and for some of us, we had the same wide-eyed wonder that Wilson brought to the screen when it came to all things Kris Kringle. For that reason, I urge you to watch both movies during the holiday season-- even back to back as I am doing today-- to show you that though remakes aren't always necessary, sometimes they can be just as endearing as the originals.
Miracle on 34th Street starts out with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Santa being unfit for the job, so Kris Kringle convinces the store's marketing director (O'Hara and Perkins' role) to let him take over instead. Since he is a jolly older man with bright white hair and rosy red cheeks (that we can't confirm in the 1947 original because it is in black and white), she allows it. He does such a good job-- and looks so authentic-- the store keeps him on for the season.
The marketing director's daughter is a little girl who wants some very specific things from Santa this year: a house, a father, and a brother. And she has just the specific house in mind, having seen a picture of it in a magazine. She tells the Santa at Macy's exactly what she wants and is promised her dreams will come true.
The Santa at Macy's, meanwhile, doesn't just call himself Kris Kringle, but he also is convinced he really is Kris Kringle. Despite a bunch of lawyers trying to commit him as just a "mentally ill old man," gradually more than just this little girl begin to wonder and then believe if maybe he's the real thing after all.
What is so great about this movie is that it plays on a personal theory of mine for years. After Kris Kringle deliberately fails his mental sanity test and is put on trial, the question is raised as to what is real and what is not. If we believe in something, does that make it real? If we teach our children something is out there, are we lying to them, or are we creating something out of nothing? And furthermore, if Santa is not real, is God real? After all, Santa and God are both these omnipotent beings that see all, know all, and can reward or spite; no one sees either of them, but yet we are told they exist. Perhaps I am reaching a bit with that one, but it's part of what has always made this movie so special for me: it calls out the grown-ups on their crap!