Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Fifty-five - The Polar Express, "Starring: Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks, Eddie Deezen, and Tom Hanks."

Sometimes is a little difficult to stretch an entire 100-minute film from a holiday picture book. Still, Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis wanted to try. The result was the 2004 mo-capped CGI film, The Polar Express, which tells the tale of a boy who has grown cynical with the idea of Santa at the North Pole and falls asleep Christmas night only to be awoken by the magical Polar Express. It travels the world (or, at least, the English-speaking world) to gather up children not unlike himself for a trip to visit Santa before he takes his globe-spanning journey in the hopes that they'll believe once again.

Maybe I'm just as cynical s person, myself, but the small adventures and assorted characters that the boy meets along the way are contrived and paper-thin with absolutely no complexity. Hero Boy is a hero, risking life and limb to help others. Leader Girl is a leader, of course, connected and inspiring those around her, and Know-it-all Boy is whiny Eddie Deezen, whose nasally nerdish voice cuts through the very fabric of my suspension of disbelief and reminds me more of WarGames and Dexter's Lab than the annoying CGI kid he plays.

For it's era, The Polar Express is a fairly plodding narrative told through dazzling effects. Sure, the humans still aren't quite right either in form or motion, and it probably would've been a much more entertaining film if it was live action with decent child actors, but the landscapes and architecture are tremendously beautiful. While I can't get behind any of Tom Hanks' many, many roles and Michael Jeter's performances as the two engineers are blah and silly, it's nice to have both of them along for the ride... especially Jeter, may he rest in peace.

I think, aside from Deezen, my biggest complaint is the last minute cameo by Steven Tyler as an elf version of himself, rocking out after Santa's departure to deliver toys to all the good children of the world during the climax. I had visions of Revolution X and Armageddon. It was a horrible nightmare pastiche of guns and animal crackers.

Still, for all of it's many faults, The Polar Express does have a sweet message... that they beat you over the head with... but kids are dumb, so I guess it was necessary (no, they're not and no, it wasn't). Also, there was an elf in a bicorn hat. Hilarious. Could've done without the ghost, though. I don't believe that I'll ever look back on The Polar Express fondly as a Christmas Classic, but I also don't think I was all that much the worse for watching it. Could've been much better, but also much worse.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~


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