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The Polar Express (2004)

December 12, 2009

7/10 Butt-Ugly Elves

Better than I thought it would be and one of the few occasions where I actually wish I’d seen it in 3-D.

The Polar Express is about a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa – yup, one of those kids – that hits the sack on Christmas Eve, only to have is his ass woken up and his world turned upside-down when a freakin’ train pulls up outside his house (talkin’ ’bout The Polar Express, folks) that’s headed for the North Pole. Naturally, the kid gets on the mysterious train because Tom Hanks promises him hot chocolate, and off he goes to Santa’s village to prove his doubting self wrong.

Before I get into the movie, I’ll start off by giving you the heads up that I still haven’t read the book that it’s based off of, and judging by the reaction I got from my friends out of this statement, my childhood was apparently deprived in a most severe fashion. I’ve made a mental note to get around to it this season, but from what I gathered, director Robert Zemeckis sure does takes some liberties with the plot here.

Granted, they’re all pretty welcome and entertaining additions that amp up the volume while keeping the main story intact. And considering this movie would be ten minutes long if it stayed true to the source material, I’d say Rob did a pretty good job all in all.

Now, I’m not sure if it’s because this is the first movie I ever saw in Blu-Ray, but holy hell is this thing gorgeous. The animation is fantastic and everything just pops. It’s a fun ride throughout and you can’t take your eyes off it, partly due to how realistic it all looks and partly because the pacing’s set at a mile-a-minute.

The only drawback here is that sometimes it gets too realistic for its own good. There’s a line from the last season of 30 Rock where Tracy Jordan and Frank are talking about how there’s a fine line between CG humans that are endearing and CG humans that are creepy, prompting them to use the example of Tom Hanks in The Polar Express, thus prompting Tracy to respond with, “I’m scared! Get me out of here!” at the mere mention of his CG creepiness. And Tracy’s right, it is kinda creepy. It’s actually one of those things where you’re not sure if it’s cool technology at work or the potential birth of Skynet in front of our very eyes.

This issue ties into the whole “Butt-Ugly Elves” thing where Zemeckis decided to take it upon himself to fill Santa’s Village with the weirdest looking three-foot-tall bastards he could imagine. And for some reason Steven Tyler of Aerosmith makes an appearance as a rockin’ elf of hideously epic proportions. Just look at that…thing. I wouldn’t go to Santa’s Village if you hooked me up to a hot chocolate I.V., those elves are horrifying.

There’s also a somewhat strange musical number about hot chocolate at the start, which is mostly strange because of the way Tom Hanks sings the lyrics. Hard to describe it without hearing it, but let’s just say singing isn’t really Hanks’ strong suit. A fun scene otherwise.

Anyway, I think I’m rambling a bit, so instead of going on about how The Polar Express will inevitably serve as the catalyst that sparked the war between humans and machines, I’m gonna go ahead and sum up why I liked it. The visuals are great despite their unintended flaws, the movie makes it easy to see why this story is a Christmas classic as it drives the message home and had my good buddy Fred breaking out those pre-Christmas waterworks, and I just found myself totally engrossed in it the whole way through. I don’t get around to seeing to many kids movies nowadays, but this is one I’d be happy to see again.

Look, I don’t care what mommy and daddy say, Santa is so real and he totally talks like Tom Hanks.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2009 8:27 am

    its not bad The Polar Express, but no better than that.
    kid gets on train.. goes sees Santa.. and uh, thats about it.

  2. March 16, 2010 10:05 am

    Watched this for the first time two Christmas’ ago, and I loved it. I know I say this a lot, but it’s a movie that really does get the joy and wonder of a Christmas, especially when looked at through the eyes of s child.

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