The Greatest Store in the World (1999)


The Greatest Store in the World” is one of those films you can finish watching and look back on with a smile later on. What this film does is take a somewhat dramatic plot and turn it into a bittersweet tale with occasional laughs that a family can watch together. Like “A Miracle on 34th Street”, the film presents a large store so big it’s capable to house a small family. Dervla Kirwan plays Geraldine a basically free-spirited mother who uses the store as a home for her children and quite cleverly is able to dodge security guards, the doorman “Mr. Whiskers” and the stores snoopy Santa and his elf who swagger around the store bothering people.

Elizabeth Earl is charming as the clever oldest daughter Livvy who tells the story through her eyes as she constantly battles with her mother who always borders on irresponsibility. Earl is truly a joy to watch in the film as she spouts clever one-liner after one-liner and there’s even a great scene where she humiliates a girl who stole her part as an angel in her school Christmas play. Earl is able to portray her character with a quiet charm never becoming obnoxious as most child roles do when given the task as main character. She’s precocious but a truly level-headed individual to her mother’s fee-spirit and fancy free attitude. The concept for the film is truly original but clever just the same; it’s interesting to watch the family live off of the store without actually stealing anything and the mother becomes a paradox tricking her children into staying in the store though specifically forbidding them to actually take anything that isn’t theirs.

Peter Capaldi is enjoyable and likable as the tough but fascinating “Mr. Whisker” who is often feared by the children who sneak in and out of the store and begins to become suspicious to their activities. The feud between the mother Geraldine and daughter Livvy is never truly resolved; we always get the sense the mother never lives up to her responsibilities and its never touched upon. I felt they could have increased the running time and have put more emphasis on the relationship between the mother Geraldine and her daughters and also could have shown more of the store which is described as the biggest store in their country. The movie does tend to be corny at times including sequences that are either hardly realistic or cheesy. There’s a scene in the film where the mother and her daughters are dancing in the store to music which is hardly original and also tends to become nauseating; plus the last scenes of the film where the character Livvy foils the store robbers are hardly original and also come off as pretty cliché.

“The Greatest Store in the World” is a product that would be ruined if made incorrectly but somehow being made from another country gives it its charm. There are some truly memorable scenes including a cameo from group “S Club 7”, and a hilarious sequence and climax where the character Livvy attempts to foil some store robbers. Through all of that, there’s good intentions with an undertone of unity and family; the film’s story attempts to send a message of true Christmas theme and how to appreciate what you have instead of crying about what you don’t have. Corny at times, but also it’s sweet, charming, endearing, funny, and cute with a great message underneath it’s zany holiday motif. Watch this one with the kids, you’ll be glad you did.