The Polar Express (2004)

polar express poster 2004 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 6/10

Nice images from the book, spirit of the film

Story stretched out a short story, some bad voice acting, some bad animation

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Polar Express

Studio:  Castle Rock Entertainment

Genre(s): Family/Animation/Action/Adventure/Seasonal

Release Date(s): November 10, 2004

MPAA Rating: G

polar express tom hanks conductor

Don’t take rides from strangers…unless the car is a train and the stranger is Tom Hanks…then “All Aboard!”

A boy beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus find himself invited on a train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.  As the North Pole gets closer, the boy finds more and more challenges to keep the train on schedule…plus, the promise that the first Christmas gift is going to someone on the train!

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, The Polar Express is computer animated family holiday picture.  The movie adapts the short children’s book called The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg which was released in 1985.  The movie was also released at I-MAX in 3-D and now is becoming a Christmas regular.

polar express santa claus north pole

You know Santa, you have a real image problem…most people see you as fat

The Polar Express became popular just after I had outgrown Santa Claus.  I was told by a friend so I never had the experience of really doubting like the character in the film.  The story was nice, but it was just that…a nice story.  It was not a feature length film.

The problem with The Polar Express, as with many adaptations, is that it tried to take a short story and turn it into a movie.  The best looking portions of the film are directly lifted from the beautifully illustrated book.  The story’s central themes hold true, but there is all this garbage to wade through to get to the story’s message about belief.  Going across an icy lake, over really big hills, and through a present distribution center doesn’t do anything for the plot but extend it.  If this had been a 30 minute short, it would have been awesome.

polar express ending bell

Dang…I’m starting to regret my decision not to as for more presents

If The Polar Express had been shorter, it would have been best not to focus on the people animation.  The people were mostly created through capture motion computer animation and do move relatively like real people.  The problem is their faces.  First they are just too smooth and shiny…like animatronic robots.  The second problem is that voices don’t match the characters.  A character actor named Eddie Deezen (you might have seen him WarGames, Grease, Grease 2, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, or Critters 2…might) plays the “know-it all” character Lenny…and it sounds like a 30+ year old talking.  They couldn’t find a bratty kid that’s age matches the character?  It is things like this that make the movie not work.  I also don’t see much of a reason to have Tom Hanks voice all the adult characters other than it becomes a vehicle for him and makes it a “Tom Hanks” movie.

The Polar Express is very hit or miss.  What hits is what made the book good.  What misses is what makes it an hour and a half movie.  It is better than another much maligned big screen adaptation…How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  At least I could sit and watch The Polar Express again if I had to…It only makes me wince once in a while…The Grinch however…ugh…They should have made two shorts out of the stories and put them as one film.  Maybe then they’d be better.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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