The Polar Express (U)
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
Be afraid, be very afraid… The Polar Express is coming. If you’re a boy or girl who’s not sure they believe in Father Christmas – He (Tom Hanks) will send his magical train run by the scary and strict Conductor (Tom Hanks), to whisk you out of your bed and off to the North Pole. On the way you’ll meet at least four other really annoying characters (all played by… yes, Tom Hanks) and you’ll be force-fed more Seasonal propaganda than you ever thought possible until you break and admit that there IS a Santa. Kids, if a strange man asks you to get on a train with him in the middle of the night – just say “no” – even if it is going to the North Pole.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Christmas fan and of course I believe in Father Christmas (in case my kids read this) – it’s just that there are only so many sugared clichés dipped in finest American kitsch treacle you can take before you start to feel very very ill…
Is there anything good about The Polar Express? Well the visuals are pretty cool – at least of the train itself, based on the Pere Marquette 1225 restored steam locomotive, this iron behemoth is a majestic beast that looks great as it crosses the wintry snowscape en route to Santaland.
Unfortunately, just about everything else here feels ‘wrong’ - the film uses a 3D motion capture technique to digitally record the physical performances of the actors before transferring them to an animated form. This is very clever but for some freaky reason, all the children's roles were acted by
adults using over-sized props and they look embarrassingly like exactly that. And don’t get me started on the ‘dead eyes’ / shiver / the characters might move like real adults pretending to be kids but their eyes are pure zombie through and through. Hey, and another thing, the elves – since when
did Santa’s merry little helpers look like shrunken creepy dead eyed football yobs wearing jackboots? I wish I were making this up because I really wanted to like The Polar Express, I still love Back To The Future (also directed by Robert Zemeckis) but nothing could make me want to watch
this film again. Ever.
One can only hope that there are no plans for sequel unless it’s called Polar Express 2: Pass The Sickbags.
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