12 Films of Christmas 2013: The Polar Express


Six days until Christmas? Twelve days of 2013 left? When did all this happen?! Still seems like this year has only just begun…Anyway, I’m kind of stalling. Why, you may ask? After watching and reviewing seven Films of Christmas—all of which I enjoyed to varying degrees—I decided to watch a film that I hadn’t ever seen before. I’d liked three out of three of my blind viewings, so why shouldn’t this one work out, too? Sadly, my optimism has come back to bite me in the butt. This one bored me, y’all. However, with four more reviews to squeeze out before Christmas (eek!), it’s too late to back out now. So here I am, grinning and bearing it like a naughty kid trying to make the nice list. For the eighth film of Christmas my local library gave to me…The Polar Express!

The Polar Express (2004)

polar-express 1

Synopsis: “On Christmas Eve, a doubting boy boards a magical train that’s headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus’ home.” –www.imdb.com

The Holly Jolly:

  • The visuals. Sweeping views of snow-covered lands, a beautiful frozen lake, and the aurora borealis; a pack of wolves kicking up a golden ticket on the ground, which is then caught by a soaring eagle; bright and colorful shots of dancing elves, a giant bag of presents, and antsy reindeer covered in silver bells…I could go on. Basically, it’s pretty.
  • If you like Tom Hanks, you’re in luck because he voices EVERYONE. Well, not everyone, I guess, but he’s the voice of almost every adult male. You can always tell it’s him, but he still manages to make each voice unique. But even if he didn’t, who cares? It’s Tom Hanks.
  • The music. The main theme is classically catchy, but there are some nice, lively ones in there that I’m sure would be fun for kids.
  • The basic premise: a Santa skeptic becomes a believer. It’s brings about a nice, nostalgic message encouraging people to hang on to the magic of the season. The moment when the film’s hero finally believes, everything just stops, and all you hear is the clear ring of a bell. It’s pretty cool.

The Lumps of Coal:

  • The animated humans. Freaked. Me. Out. They just look…off. Their words don’t always match their mouths, their movements seem stiff and robotic, their eyes are glassy, and their facial expressions are largely nonexistent. If they freak me out, what must the kiddies think…?
  • The plot. The theme is one thing, but the sequence of events that gets us there plods along painfully. Based on a children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg that I remember quite fondly from my childhood, this film obviously adds lots of pointless padding, and it’s very weakly tied together. I questioned almost everything that happened.
  • The DANGER. Many of the instances of “pointless padding” mentioned above involve children in ridiculously risky situations, which is so weird for a kids’ Christmas movie. For more hardcore, action-packed films, I get it, but why the heck do we have children putting their lives on the line to grab a damn train ticket?! Not worth it, animated kiddos. Wise up.
  • There are two characters I have major problems with. The first is a character voiced by Eddie Deezen and simply referred to as “Know-It-All.” Deezen not only has a voice that makes you want to strangle any living creature within reach, but he is also quite obviously a grown man voicing a child. Nails on a chalkboard. Then there’s the hobo—a character voiced by Hanks. If the hobo’s gruff, slightly sinister presence isn’t disturbing enough, he later turns out to be *SPOILER ALERT* a freaking GHOST. When did this happy kids’ tale become the scariest part of A Christmas Carol?!

In a Nutcracker’s Nutshell: I had high hopes for this one, but alas—I expected cherry pie a la mode and got a hard brick of fruitcake. I enjoyed the visuals, the message, and the presence of Tom Hanks, but for me, none of that is enough to save this film. It might provide an hour-and-a-half of mindless entertainment for the kiddies, but adults shouldn’t expect a heck of a lot. Bah humbug.

My Glad Sad Tidings: C-

Ouch. Do you know how much it hurts me to be a Scrooge this close to Christmas? A freaking lot. Good thing there are no more surprises left on my list—which I will definitely be checking twice next year. Hope you’re enjoying your Christmas film lineups better than I am right now…

24 thoughts on “12 Films of Christmas 2013: The Polar Express

  1. I basically agree. This is nothing special.

    And the forced action insertion are awkward because they don’t exist in the classic children’s tale. They are an attempt to spread a short picture book into a feature film, and they feel forced, because . . . well because they are.

    That said, my kids have never cared about the awkward looking humans. 🙂

  2. I knew you;d pick this one.

    I’m surprised you’ve never seen it before.

    I saw it once years ago and have fond memories of it, but it’s on my re-watch list anyway

    Great post

  3. Agree. This movie doesn’t work for me. Mainly because, yeah – the humans look so CREEPY. 😦 I heard the term for this once – “uncanny valley”. They look too close to being “real”, which freaks people out. Think it was in a Wall-E documentary, actually – Pixar knows to not make the animated humans too human. Pixar is never creepy! 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Silver Screen Serenade and commented:

    I debated whether or not I should even do this reblog since I’m a bit of a Grinch in it…but I feel inclined to warn anyone who might sit down for a casual watch and end up disappointed much like I was last year. So for what it’s worth, here’s last year’s review of The Polar Express.

  5. Great work here but I must confess, I have never once, ever, been curious to check this out. It’s just… nah, not my cup of tea. And those humans sound freaky to boot.

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