The Polar Express

Cover Art/Menu: 9/10
Now this is a cover I could frame and hang on my wall. Well, without the title and miscellaneous writing on it. I’m not sure if it’s from the original book, but it’s very much like the artwork they show in the extra about the author. The menus on both aren’t very exciting, unfortunately. You do get to take a bit of a visual journey at the beginning of the menu on disc 1, but it’s brief and doesn’t really liven things up much. For a movie like Polar Express, with it’s massively innovative animation, it would be nice to have some of that innovation incorporated into the menus…but after so many years of writing the same thing, no big executive seems to give a toss what I think. 🙁

Features: 7/10

  • Never Before Seen Song – This is a musical number featuring the two train engineers who are quite a classic comic slapstick duo. The director says he cut it out for time reasons, and because the movie flowed better without it, but he wanted to showcase Michael Jeter, who played the parts of the two engineers. He passed away during the filming of Polar Express. Because it was his last performance Zemeckis wanted to include it to honor his work. It’s an unfinished scene so the images aren’t polished like the rest of the movie. Nonetheless, it’s a fun song and worth a look.
  • A Genuine Ticket To Ride Featurette – Behind the scenes of making the movie including a look at the motion capture process.
  • True Inspirations An Authors Adventure Featurette – The author of the book talks about how he came up with the idea for the story and offers some insight into a few details throughout the movie.
  • Believe Josh Groban Performs At The Greek Theatre – Whatever
  • Behind The Scenes Of The Song Believe – This is a split screen of the musical number as it looks in the movie and how it looked in real life as they filmed the performers on the sound stage.
  • Polar Express Challenge Meet The Snow Angels – Tom Hanks plays 5 different parts in the film, including the boy, and Santa. He doesn’t just do the voices, he does the motion capture as well. I wonder if they multiplied his salary by 5..hmmm?
  • THQ PC Game Demo 2 Playable Levels – Um, it’s a game demo. I consider this a commercial for the PC game, not really an extra.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Trailers are not extras people!

The Movie: 8/10
Forget the fact that it’s the second week of October and I only just got my Halloween decorations out on the porch. Ignore that we haven’t made it past Veteran’s Day, my birthday, or Thanksgiving Day. Let’s skip right to Christmas and have a jolly good time with a Holiday movie while we watch the leaves fall from the trees in the yard. Should I even be watching a movie when those leaves have taken my lawn hostage? Sure, why not.

Ok, it’s a Christmas flick. It’s a full blown sentimental festival of holiday emotional temptations that will make you wish you were 9 years old again, before you stopped REALLY enjoying Christmas.

There’s a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa, a mysterious train that pulls up to his front door, singing waiters, creepy elves, and a Santa right out of the deepest most sappy realms of your mind. He’s even got that Martha Stewart glow. If you have ever Seen Martha Stewart on TV you’ll know what I mean. They give her that funky little halo glow around her head that I think is meant to hypnotize us into buying her merchandise. but I digress. Santa has the glow, that’s all you need to know.

As for the boy, Hero Boy, as he is referred to, he’s brave and honest. He has lost that thing though, you know, when you get to be about 10 years old the shine starts to wear off of the holidays ever so slightly. The Polar Express comes around to take him on an adventure that is meant to restore his belief. He meets up with a group of other kids on their way to the North Pole.

The story is good, if not a solid holiday fantasy we’ve seen before. I will admit that the action is really exciting. I grasped my chair arms a few times like when the train hits a frozen lake and spins out of control. I had a few tears dribble now and then due to the mushy factor. I also got lost in on one of the scenes when a golden ticket is swept away by the wind and we follow it on a natural adventure through the woods, down a waterfall, into an Eagle’s nest, all at amazing speed and up close as if you were attached to the ticket flying through the air. These are the moments that make Polar Express memorable and somewhat enchanting.

There are a couple of entertaining musical numbers, which is par for the course in kid movies. I’m not sure why writers and directors think kids like musical numbers so much. I remember as a kid I wanted the songs to get over with so the story would come back. I just have to say that some of the dancing and other animation, for me, is creepy. I’ve seen many many many video games over the years (thanks to my gamer husband) and they usually have humans that look good, but have a certain odd factor about them. In Polar Express there are moments of awkward body movement, weird facial expressions, and some character’s mouths look so gamey it’s a bit distracting. I know it’s groundbreaking to make an entire movie with this kind of technology, and I do love it. I’m just saying that when it’s good it’s truly magical and when it’s not good, it’s distracting and not very pleasant.

The elves are too icky though. I have to say it. They have like creepy adult heads on tiny little skinny bodies and they move a little like Daredevil in his worse moments, or Cat Woman. Remember those bad CGI human imitations? Well, these elves haven’t been to the training course on how to move like a human. They are kind of rubbery and unnatural. See, that’s the kind of thing that can wipe away the good stuff that’s happening in the film. I don’t want to poison your mind before you get a chance to see the movie, but I have to speak my truth. My truth is that some of the motion capture of the elves, and a few humans is so odd it breaks through the illusion that the rest of the movie does such a good job of putting together.

The elves also have strange voices that would have scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. Let’s face it, they scared me a little bit now! Don’t let my impressions of Santa’s little helpers put you off the movie. It’s a very good tale of a boy looking for that magic in his life again, and wouldn’t we all like to get that back? 90% of the time the CGI is amazing and transfixing. The sounds are incredible and there are so many Hollywood voices in there you will be hard pressed to figure out who everyone is. It’s a good adventure. I don’t agree that it’s a holiday classic, but hey, I might be too old to make the judgment.

Value: 4/10
I don’t have kids, but if I did I would be pissed off every time a DVD comes out and the people behind it are demanding so much cash. This DVD sells online for between 20-24 bucks. It’s crazy. Polar Express is a fun movie. It’s got that Christmas sentimentality and it’s a marvel of CG animation. The extras are pretty good. However, it’s still a holiday flick for kids and it should be reasonably priced for families, like around the $7-$10 mark. We did see it in Target for a great price, so my hat’s off to them for being reasonable. If only I were in charge of this stuff, everywhere you went these kinds of DVD’s would be less than 10 bucks. Parent’s would have more money for little things like rent and food!

Overall Score 7/10