The Polar Express


Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by:Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles Jr
Starring: Tom Hanks, Michael Jeter, Eddie Deezen, Nona M. Gaye, Peter Scolari
Released: November 18, 2004
Grade: B+

As a Christmas movie, The Polar Express stands out.  For one thing, it isn’t a comedy.  It’s a mystical family film which embodies the spirit of Christmas.  Unfortunately for the creators, this isn’t a film the public wants to see.  Costing in excess of $150m, The Polar Express made a measly $23m in its opening weekend in the States.

Our leading character is a young boy who has a growing doubt over the existence of Santa Clause.  Lying in his bed on Christmas Eve, the walls start shaking and a giant train pulls up outside his front door.  It’s the Polar Express and it takes any doubting child directly to the North Pole to see first hand the magic Christmas.  An excited conductor ushers the boy aboard and the journey begins.

The children aboard the train are in for a bumpy journey as the train traverses high mountains and icy glaciers en route to its destination.  They will ultimately find their way to North Pole where they will be treated to sight few children ever see and they will gather an appreciation for the spirit of Christmas.

We have a different style of animation on display here – some characteristics make it look very real but other characteristics create an opposing feel.  The children look amazingly real and yet their faces are strange, almost creepy.  It’s a little off-putting.  I applaud the attempt at originality but not sure if it works in the film’s favour.

Another strange aspect to the film is the use of Tom Hanks.  Hanks voices the lead boy, his father, the conductor, a hobo, a scrooge and Santa Clause himself.  Again, I have qualms over whether this was the right decision.  A few of his characters sounded too similar and I felt more distracted than impressed.

On the whole though, I found enjoyment in the film and do have words of praise for director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Cast Away).  The colours and softness to the film’s textures are beautiful and the score from composer Alan Silvestri is delightfully uplifting.  The storyline may be a little dark, but I’d have no misgivings taking a child to see it.  All aboard!