Polar Express (2004) – Film Review

All aboard for the Polar Express!

Let’s face it: life goes a little downhill when you stop believing in Santa. The magic of Christmas disappears, the mince pies stop being left out, you find out that your dad’s handwriting is the same as Santa’s and that Rudolph hasn’t got a red nose. Before you know it you’re slapped with a National Insurance number, forced to earn your own money and Santa becomes just a fat bearded bloke who makes you spend your wages. But enough ‘Bah Humbug’ from me because Robert Zemeckis’ animated Polar Express puts the magic back into Christmas.

It is Christmas Eve and we are introduced to a doubting boy. Just when he feels that the magic is gone and that Santa’s an imposter, a magical train turns up outside his front door. He is greeted by the train conductor, played by Tom Hanks who also plays the kid’s dad, the Hobo on the train, Scrooge, Santa himself and probably a few other characters too. Of course he alters his voice for each but you can always see a little ‘Tom’ in each of the characters. This isn’t a bad thing… especially if you’re a Tom Hanks fan. Respect to Tom! Anyway…ALL ABOARD!!!

On this magical train the boy learns that it’s heading straight to Santa’s lair… The North Pole! He meets a few friends upon the way and strikes up a particularly close friendship with a young girl and an even younger boy. This new little team work well together; in the young girl you have the leader – the one who believes, in the main character, you have the doubter and in the even younger kid you have the non-believer who isn’t a big fan of Christmas… but that soon changes when the three of them embark on a journey of self discovery which brings many little adventures along the way. Oh but beware. Whilst the animated characters are great and really brought to life, there is one little kid that you’d like to throw a snowball at right in the kisser. He has his own journey of self discovery… to learn not to be a little… tyke to put it politely. Complete with an annoying voice he sounds like the fourth member of Alvin and the Chipmunks who got kicked out because of his crack habit. But don’t let this put you off – he plays a very minor role.

Visually this film is stunning. The different landscapes portrayed are amazing as the train makes a roller-coaster-style journey to the North Pole, but the real treat awaits. Every kid’s dream (and those of us who are still kids at heart) is to see where Santa lives and the finale doesn’t disappoint: flying elves, dancing reindeers, thousands of Christmas lights, millions of presents, the biggest and best Christmas tree in the world and, of course, the big man himself… Mr C.

So will the doubting boy start to believe? Will Mr C. reveal himself? Who will get the first gift of Christmas? And will the annoying kid get a snowball lodged in his teeth? Find out and jump aboard ‘The Polar Express.’ It’s a truly festive film for all ages which re-invigorates the magic of Christmas for those of us who don’t believe in the big guy any more.

Best bit: The boy’s encounter with Santa
Best performance: Tom Hanks as everyone.
Watch this if you liked: A Nightmare Before Christmas, The Snowman, The Grinch.

The first animated film to use performance capture technology.

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