(Review originally written at 19 April 2006)

For a Christmas movie- and a children movie in particular, this movie is really lacking in entertainment and likability.

It's very simple to say why this movie is not entertaining enough. It's too artificial. Sure, the computer effects are beautiful looking and it's a really big achievement but it makes the movie also very artificial looking and therefor the movie has absolutely no magic feeling in it at all. Because of that very same reason, the characters are too shallow and the story itself is not involving or entertaining enough. I really don't understand why this movie had to be made entirely with the computer. The movie totally lacks human emotions because of this and the whole 'magical' feeling feels forced and fake.

To be frank, I just don't see how this movie is much good as a children's movie. There is nothing to enjoy in this movie for the kids. There aren't really many jokes present and the characters that are in the movie are not really likable or easy to relate with for the kids. They even have no names. The story also has little entertainment value because it's not consistent enough and the events in the movie are just only highly unlikely and are not made to look believable at all. And in general, the movie is more creepy and dark looking than cheerful and happy. What an odd choice for a children Christmas movie. The movie relies too much on its 'magic' feeling...a feeling that is not present in the movie at all. Therefor "The Polar Express" is nothing more than a beautiful looking failure.

The story is extremely simple and is told way too weak in the movie. Basically the story is one unlikely and even odd event after the other without them making an obvious connection. I'm also still puzzling what the message of this movie exactly was. I'm pretty sure of it that it's; Believe in Christmas. But it is never explained in the movie why. Other Christmas movies with these kind of messages also have a morale and explain why it's so beautiful to believe in Christmas and how it makes the world a better place. Not in this movie. The message of the movie is basically muddled in the effects and visual look of the movie. It also helps to make the movie a very forgettable one.

And really, did Tom Hanks had to play basically every male character in the movie? I really like Tom Hanks as an actor but to be honest he is not good enough as a voice actor, in terms of putting diversity and character into the different characters through his voice. Every character he plays sounds the same and maybe because of that the movie also gets too distracting and for some confusing to watch.

All of the characters in particular also aren't much special. Most of them are totally obsolete and some of the characters are also highly peculiar portrayed in the movie. For instance all of the elves aren't nice at all in the movie and they didn't exactly made a friendly impression on me. They were even a bit villainous. The way Santa Claus is presented in the movie is also totally wrong. In the movie they made him look like a sort of tribe leader that is treated as a king and is worshiped by all as if he is some sort of God. He is not a friendly, cuddly, cheerful guy at all in this movie.

The musical score by Alan Silvestri also got highly annoying after a while. Basically it's the same 'magical' main theme being played over and over again.

The motion capture techniques work out pretty good in the movie and also the animations themselves are really good looking most of the time. There also is some good action, so obviously the movie still has some good things to enjoy. It's of course far from the worst movie ever but also far from the most entertaining one. More was to be expected from a director like Robert Zemeckis, who before this gave us entertaining movies like "Romancing the Stone", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and the Back to the Future trilogy.

OK maybe it's because I'm European that I don't like this movie. I mean, the whole magical feeling around Christmas and the whole Christmas spirit is not really a that big thing here. So perhaps if you're American you can still appreciate some of the elements handled in the movie, although I stick to my opinion that it's still lacking in entertainment- and a real good point.

A failure of a movie that is from a technical point of view is interesting and good looking.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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