Does anyone remember the 1983 TV series "Casablanca"? David Soul starred in the Humphrey Bogart role.
Or the 1977 TV-movie remake of "It's a Wonderful Life"? It was called "It Happened One Christmas" and had a gender switch - Marlo Thomas played the James Stewart character.
How about the 1973 made-for-TV remake of "Miracle on 34th Street"? Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his portrayal of Santa Claus in the 1947 original, and while Sebastian Cabot did fairly well in the '73 version, the film itself couldn't quite measure up.
Countless other examples languish in the remake graveyard, of course. Yet, despite a lamentable track record, Hollywood, ever devoid of original ideas, continues the trend.
So, here comes yet another "Miracle on 34th Street," this one reshaped for the '90s by producer-screenwriter John Hughes (the "Home Alone" movies, "Dennis the Menace," etc.). And despite first-rate production values and a wonderful cast, this new gussied-up version doesn't come close to touching the original.
The film begins with New York City's Thanksgiving Day parade, as Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough) wanders by, spots the parade's drunken Santa and chides him publicly. The parade's coordinator, cynical single mother Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins), in need of another Santa, hires Kriss on the spot.
Kriss does so well, she also hires him to be the Santa for Cole's, the store that puts on the parade each year. (The fictional Cole's has replaced Macy's, since the famous Manhattan department store declined to participate.)
Eventually, Kriss meets Dorey's daughter Susan (Mara Wilson, of "Mrs. Doubtfire," in the role originally played by young Natalie Wood) and is saddened to discover she has been taught not to believe in Santa Claus. But with assistance from Dorey's neighbor Bryan Bedford (Dylan McDermott), a young lawyer, Kriss attempts to persuade them that Santa is indeed quite real. Later, in court (before judge Robert Prosky), Bryan also tries to convince the world that Kriss is the real Santa!
Attenborough is perfect in the central role of Santa Claus, and young Wilson is utterly enchanting. When they aren't on the screen, the film definitely begins to drag. Prosky is also a delight. And while Perkins is satisfactory in her role, a little warmth - especially toward the end - would have helped a great deal. McDermott is a bit flat - but then, so was John Payne the first time around.
The film as a whole is quite faithful to the original, except that it's about 20 minutes longer, lays on the sentiment with a trowel and, for some inexplicable reason, is not nearly as funny. This has to be by design, since a number of humorous characters, situations and dialogue that made the '47 film so charming have been discarded by Hughes.
If that's not enough, however, toward the end, the screenplay veers wildly from the original film's courtroom climax. Where the post office plays a wonderfully significant role in the '47 version, Hughes has concocted a much more convoluted and less satisfying way of proving that Kriss is the real Santa.
Suffice it to say that the screenplay for the first "Miracle" won an Oscar in 1948 but that isn't likely to happen again in 1995.
Still, as remakes go, this one is a moderately satisfying big-screen event for holiday family viewing . . . though I would heartily recommend renting the original instead.
"Miracle on 34th Street" is rated PG for some mild vulgarity, a few mild profanities and a bit of violence.