Thursday Night Movie Club
The Polar Express
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: November 10, 2004

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Tom Hanks
Leslie Harter Zemeckis
Eddie Deezen
Nona M. Gaye
Peter Scolari
Brendan King
Andy Pellick
Josh Eli
Mark Mendonca
Rolandas Hendricks
Mark Goodman
Jon Scott
Gregory Gast
Sean Scott
Gordon Hart
Hero Boy
Santa Claus
Sister Sarah/Mother
Hero Girl
Lonely Boy
Pastry Chef
Pastry Chef
The Polar Express movie poster

The Polar Express is a movie in search of a movie. The animation and effects are stunning, but the movie seems stretched to get it to fill a full length feature film.

The story involves a nameless boy who, like all of us, is growing up and he no longer believes in Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, he goes to bed knowing that Santa doesn't exist. He is awaken that night by the strange sound of a steam train outside his bedroom window. He peers outside to find that fog has enclosed his little village. Curiousity gets the better of him and he goes outside, in his robe, to investigate. As the fog clears, he spies a steam locomotive with a few passenger cars attached.

Well, this should be enough to convince anyone that Santa exists, but the boy is skeptical. He meets the conductor, who looks amazingly just like Tom Hanks in a moustache. The conductor tells the boy, "This is the Polar Express" as if that is supposed to make perfect, logical sense. He promptly hands the boy his ticket and asks him to come onboard. Well, it is freezing cold outside, and the boy has nothing better to do that night except sleep, so he hops on board.

As you can no doubt tell, I lost any sense of logical storytelling at this point. The Polar Express is nothing more than a great looking movie with absolutely no storytelling to back it up. The boy deoesn't even question how a set of train tracks, let alone a train, has somehow appeared in his front yard, where there are no train tracks. The sense of awe and mystery are lost on the boy's reaction.

This is the main failing of this movie. Everything looks wonderful, magical, but the children don't react as if this were wonderful and magic. The movie was shot by having the actors dress in blue-screen outfits. Their movements were captured on a computer and translated into digitally created characters. The motions of the actors is lifelike and fluid. The characters facial expressions are lifeless, doll-like. It's a very eerie, creepy result.

The other problem with The Polar Express is that it can't make up its mind what kind of movie this is. Is it a childhood fantasy, an action movie, a comedy, a musical? The movie jumps around genres so quickly as to make the movie difficult to comprehend. When the waiters come out dancing to serve ice cream floats, the effect is jarring. It is so unexpected in that it comes out of "left field". After the 600th roller-coaster sequence, I lost all interest in this movie.

In an absolutely wonderfully animated sequence, the "hero boy" loses a passengers ticket. The ticket flies out the window and miraculously travels faster than a steam train travelling at roughly 40 miles per hour. The ticket is swept up by a wolf pack, flown down a ravine, picked up by an eagle, who stupidly enough, tries to feed it to its young chick (Note: Eagles do not live in Arctic regions in the winter, nor do they give birth to chicks when there is no readilly available food supply.), the ticket continues on its merry way to overtake the train and somehow, end up back inside the train. Einstein is rolling in his grave thinking about his Theory of Relativity.

The Polar Express is so disjointed that it can only be loved by the most innocent among us. It looks good, very good, but the background story makes no sense what so ever. Events happen just to stretch this out to a full-length feature. This idea, taking a short stroy and stretching it out, failed miserably with "The Grinch" and it utlimately fails here to! If all you want is a great looking movie, than this is for you. Other than the great animation, the simple story is lost in the telling.