It stars Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott, and is the fourth remake (and the second theatrical version) of the original 1947 film.
Like the original film, this film was released by 20th Century Fox.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
When the Cole's Department Store's Santa Claus gets drunk before taking part in the Thanksgiving parade, Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins), Cole's director of special events, fires him and must find a replacement immediately. She spots an old man (Richard Attenborough) berating the inebriated Santa and begs him to take over. He introduces himself as Kris Kringle.
Kris does so well during the parade that he is immediately hired to be Cole's main Santa for the holiday period. All the children in New York begin to believe that he is the real Santa with the exception of Dorey's six-year-old daughter Susan (Mara Wilson).
Dorey's boyfriend, Bryan Bedford (Dylan McDermott), does his best to convince Susan to believe. While being babysat one night by Kris, Susan shares with him her Christmas wish: she would like a dad, a house (used every year for the Cole's catalogue photoshoot) and a baby brother. Kris asks if she would begin to believe in Santa if she got all those things & Susan agrees that she would.
Kris is credited with bringing in increasingly more sales to Cole's than previous years until one night when he is arrested & then sanctioned for supposedly assaulting a man on the street.
Later, the truth emerges that the man he assaulted was the original drunk Santa set up Kris to be arrested with the help of members of staff from a rival department store of Cole's, Shopper's Express.
With the help of Bryan, Dorey takes Kris's case to court and drums up support for him from the public.
It soon becomes clear that to get Kris acquitted and freed, Bryan must somehow prove that not only does Santa exist, but that Kris is the real one. It is a seemingly impossible task until Bryan comes up with a plan that requires some help from Susan.
Just as the judge is about to make his decision and it seems he was going to rule against Kris, Susan walks up to the judge with a Christmas card containing a $1 bill. On the back, the words "In God We Trust" are circled.
The judge realizes that since the U.S. Department of Treasury can put its official faith in God with no hard evidence, then the people of New York can believe in Santa Claus in the same way. This leaves the elated judge no other choice but to declare that Santa is real and that he exists in the person of Kris Kringle.
Following the court case, Dorey and Bryan are maneuvered by Kris into realizing their true feelings for each other and they are married in a very small ceremony right after the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.
On Christmas morning, Susan wakes to the news of the marriage and is elated to see that she has part one of her Christmas wish, Bryan as her new dad.
Together, Susan, Dorey and Bryan drive out to the catalogue house and upon arrival, they find out that Kris has arranged for them to purchase the house which they can now afford due to the size of the Christmas bonus Dorey has received as a result of Kris' work at Cole's.
Susan (now having got two out of three of her wishes) excitedly runs upstairs in the house to look at her bedroom.
Dorey and Bryan are about to kiss when Dorey asks Susan what the last part of her Christmas wish was and she triumphantly announces that it was a baby brother. Dorey and Bryan both look at each other, shocked before glancing down at Dorey's stomach and sharing a kiss.
The film ends with the belief that Susan has now gotten all she asked for in her wish and it is mentioned that Kris has gone overseas.
- Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle, said to be the real Santa Claus. After the drinking Santa Claus gets sacked from performing in the parade, he reluctantly takes on the duty as Cole's Santa Claus.
- Mara Wilson as Susan Walker, Dorey's 6-year-old daughter.
- Elizabeth Perkins as Dorey Walker, Susan's mother. She is the director of special events for Cole's and Bryan Bedford's girlfriend.
- Dylan McDermott as Bryan Bedford, Dorey's boyfriend and neighbor.
- J. T. Walsh as Ed Collins, a lawyer
- Simon Jones as Donald Shellhammer, a director for Cole's special events known for his departing phrase "Chin-Chin".
- James Remar as Jack Duff, a minion under the greedy Victor Landberg.
- Jane Leeves as Alberta Leonard, another minion under the greedy Victor Landberg.
- William Windom as C.F. Cole
- Robert Prosky as Judge Henry Harper, the city judge presiding over Kris' case. He has a grandson that he is seen with in the first scene of the film thinking Kris is Santa Claus.
- Allison Janney as Brazen Woman in Cole's Christmas Shopping Center. She has only a single cameo.
- Jack McGee as Tony Falacchi, the Drunk Santa who was originally going to be Cole's Santa Clause, even starting with the parade. He loses his job in the beginning at the parade on a count of being caught inebriating himself by Kris who was only trying to intervene to give him some instruction before the parade, and is also caught with the proof of his condition by other authoritative figures from an incident that happens. Later on, encouraged by prophet from Jack Duff, he helps him and Alberta Leonard out (becoming their minion) through pursuing revenge by eventually trying to humiliate Kringle and his job not to mention how he manages to jeopardize it through threats that would even cause him to get committed.
- Joss Ackland (uncredited) as Victor Landberg, Store Competitor who is eager to see Cole's go out of business so he can buy out the facility and extend his market.
At the box office, the film opened at #8 with $2,753,208 and eventually finished with $17,320,146 in North America and $46,264,384 worldwide.
The film received mixed to positive reviews with Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a score of 61% based on reviews from 23 critics.
TV Guide called the film "curiously depressing" while Desson Howe of The Washington Post claimed that (by comparison to the 1947 version), "[it] will not be found on television (or its computer equivalent) half a century from now."
Its supporters include Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert, who gave the film "two thumbs up" on their show (the quote is also on the front of the movie's home video release).
Michael Medved of Sneak Previews said, "This is the new holiday classic America has been waiting for."