The Polar Express

"Weak"

The Polar Express Review


The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of Robert Zemeckis' digital banquet The Polar Express draw inspiration from Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful Christmas novel of the same name. Beginning with the late-night arrival of the pinch-me-I'm-dreaming locomotive and ending with the narrator's ringing of a symbolic bell, these whimsical bookend scenes find the perfect holiday ambiance that wraps us in a cozy blanket of adolescent wonder.

Bridging the film's beautiful opening and closing, though, are 77 minutes of exhaustive, roller coaster-worthy action sequences, death-defying skids across frozen lakes and approximately 15 harrowing occasions where the beloved Polar Express is inches away from jumping its tracks and killing everybody on board. It's Van Allsburg by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it just doesn't fit the initial warm-and-fuzzy mood.

Introducing a pioneering and sorta creepy form of digital filmmaking dubbed "performance capture," in which the film was shot with live actors wearing special sensors which were later matched by computer animators, director Robert Zemeckis pumps vigor into a relatively subdued and simple story of a young boy invited to the North Pole to reinstate his fading belief in Santa Claus (voiced by a solemn Tom Hanks). Van Allsburg's original narration is a piece of Americana that's culled from children's dream on the most delightful night of the calendar year - Christmas Eve.

Zemeckis, a filmmaker recognized more for the technological advancements he's brought to the medium, reaches deep into his special effects stocking and pulls out a visual masterpiece that's as frigid as a lump of coal and as delectable as a fruit cake. As expected, Zemeckis pours his efforts into the groundbreaking animation to create an expressive art form that's light years ahead of the competition. On the emotional side, Polar falls flat and pulls up woefully short on genuine yuletide cheer. You get the sense that Zemeckis would rather perfect the breathtaking journey of a lost train ticket, which floats and soars like Forrest Gump's feather along the twisty tracks, than craft an accurate human response to a child's face-to-face with St. Nick.

The director's ramped-up contributions overshadow the book's inherent message about losing our childhood innocence. The Polar padding includes, but is by no means limited to, the motivational ramblings of a stowaway (Hanks) who may or may not be a ghost, bungee-jumping elves, and insufferable musical numbers about hot chocolate sung by a wooden conductor (Hanks, again).

A lonely lad (voiced by perpetual Bosom Buddy Peter Scolari) sits by himself in the train's caboose until he's required to break into a sappy holiday tune, which morphs into a duet with the sassy African-American girl on board. Their gooey selection is marginally better then the theme park-cheesy jingles that pervade the soundtrack once the Express finally pulls into Santa's headquarters. You're better off picking up Van Allsburg's delightful book this season, and leaving the rest to your own imagination.

If your kids look like this, seek help. Immediately.



The Polar Express

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 10th November 2004

Box Office USA: $0.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $305.9M

Budget: $165M

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Castle Rock Entertainment, Shangri-La Entertainment, Playtone, ImageMovers, Golden Mean, Universal CGI, Warner Bros.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 110 Rotten: 89

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Hero Boy and Father and Conducter and Santa Clause and Scrooge and Hobo, as Smokey and Steamer, as Know-It-All, Chris Coppola as Toothless Boy, as Hero Girl, as Lonely Boy, as Elf General, as Elf Lieutenant, Leslie Zemeckis as Mother, Julene Renee as Red Head Girl, Andy Pellick as Pastry Chef

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.