A department store Santa goes on trial to prove he is in fact the genuine article.
Writer-producer-kidmeister John Hughes' remake of the heart-warming, Oscar-winning 1947 comic fantasy might seem a trifle weak in the miracle department, but this tale of a department store Santa who goes on trial to prove he is, in fact, the genuine article abounds in the expensive production values and misty-eyed sentiment that all but guarantee a massive Christmas hit.
Richard Attenborough positively sparkles in the role of the mysterious Kriss Kringle, giving a restrained and genuinely sweet performance as the plump, white-bearded one suiting up in red in a New York store to hear the confidential wish-lists of toy-crazed weenies. Enter the delightful funny-face Wilson as young Susan, a reluctant unbeliever, and Kringle is determined to rise to the challenge and prove he's The Big Claus.
Around these two extraordinarily likeable characters spin sub-plots to spare, with Susan's mom (Perkins) as a faithless cynic wooed by handsome neighbour (McDermott) as she determinedly holds him at arm's length. Meanwhile, in an attempt to ruin his rival's booming holiday trade, an evil chainstore tycoon (Joss Ackland, curiously unbilled) has various henchpersons stitching up Kringle. Everything leads neatly and very enjoyably to a mounting "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" campaign and an hilarious courtroom climax in which lawyer McDermott fights to prove the old boy's sanity and establish his identity.
In these sceptical times, Hughes and his appointed director have been careful to skim over the more whimsical elements, concentrating visually on the magic of New York in December and verbally on family and relationships - flying reindeer and barrel-chested chortles are, unfortunately, strictly off the agenda.
If you're after an entirely pleasant, inoffensive, feel-good movie at Christmas, this is it: the kind of innocent, utterly charming, hanky-ringing fare that they aren't supposed to be making any more.