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The Polar Express
Movie Stats & Links

Starring: Tom Hanks
MPAA Rated: G
Released By: Warner Bros.
Web Site: www.polarexpressmovie.com
Kiddie Movie: It's a great story for kids.
Date Movie: It's a great story for dates.
Gratuitous Sex: It's rated G.
Gratuitous Violence: It's still rated G.
Action: Some fun scenes.
Laughs: A couple of chuckles.
Memorable Scene: The train screaming down the tracks like a roller coaster.
Memorable Quote: Nothing stood out.
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Produced By: Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Gary Goetzman, William Teitler

The Polar Express
A Movie Review

MPAA Rated - G

It's 1:40 Long

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
There was a potential for my viewing of "The Polar Express" to turn into a complete nightmare, and that was about five minutes before the movie started when little Skippy sitting behind me proceeded to start kicking the back of my chair. And weíre not talking little taps, weíre talking "Wham! Wham! Wham!" types of kicks. I felt a long movie coming, but then the Mom stepped up. The first time it happened she nicely asked her son to stop, and he stopped. Then he started kicking again and this time she stepped it up a little bit threatening if he doesnít stop they will go home without seeing the movie. Then the third time she did one of the better parenting things Iíve witnessed, she explained to her son that there were consequences if he did it again, namely they would leave, and then she explained to him why his behavior was unacceptable, namely because he isnít allowed to act that way at home, it was rude of him to be bothering me, and that there are ways to act in public, and kicking the chair in front of you isnít one of them. Happily Skippy learned his lesson, because he didnít kick my chair during the movie. Way to go Mom, hopefully this lesson will stick with your son. I suppose I should get to the movie review portion of this, so letís get to "The Polar Express."

The movie "The Polar Express" is based on the short story by the same name, which Iíve heard is loved by everyone who reads it. Me, I didnít read it, but the movie if a fabulous Christmas story. The story gives us Hero Boy who is at that age where he doubts the existence of Santa Claus, and relays these doubts to his sister. Then, outside his house, there is a clatter, but it isnít Santa, magically thereís a train in the middle of the street. Hero Boy goes out to investigate and the Conductor tells the boy to get on the train. At first the boy is hesitant, but then as the train begins to pull away he runs to just in time get on it. They make another stop, this time in front of Lonely Boyís house, and Lonely Boy only makes the train thanks to a quick thinking Hero Boy. We also get introduced to Know-It-All as well as Hero Girl. And so, the movie continues as we get to learn a little bit about the life of Lonely Boy, we get an exciting train ride to the North Pole, Hero Boy has some interesting adventures with Hobo, and eventually our trainload of kids find themselves at the North Pole just as Santa is getting ready to head off for the night of Christmas giving. And so, Hero Boy, Lonely Boy, Hero Girl, and even Know-It-All are given assurances that Santa does exist, and also learn a little bit more about the meaning of Christmas.

For a Christmas story, this is as good as any of them, and if I could only base this review on the story it would be 5 stars out of 5 and this movie would go down in history as one of the great holiday movies of all time. Sadly, at least for me, this is a movie that shows technology advances arenít always great in terms of movie-making. For "The Polar Express" the filmmakers use a not really new, but never this extensively used technique of performance capture. In simple terms, the actor/performer wears this suit with a bunch of sensors on it. As the performer moves, a computer maps out his movements, and then they map a characterís movements based on that of the performer using computer animation. Itís used a lot for video games, and also was the reason why Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was fabulous. But, for this movie, they use it for everyone, with Tom Hanks playing a lot of the roles, including Hero Boy, Father, Conductor, Hobo, Scrooge, and Santa. My problem is that it doesnít seem to work. The children look a little creepy, even Hobo and Santa look a little off, with the only character they seemed to really concentrate on was the Conductor. I suppose either youíre going to like the way the movie looks, but I didnít. Itís at that half-way point between animation and real life, where it just doesnít click for me.

For me I would have preferred one of two things: One, do the movie completely in animation, like "The Incredibles." That technology has gotten fabulous, but still leaves you not creeped out because the characters are cartoon animation. The other option is to do this movie for real. Find actors that fit each role, let them act, build real sets, and us CGI to fill in the spots that need it. Either option, for me, would have propelled "The Polar Express" into holiday stardom, but sadly a fabulous story is ruined by a risky use of technology that for me just didnít work. That said, itís 2 Ĺ stars out of 5.

Thatís it for this one! Iím The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

 

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