The Polar Express

What Is It?

The movie is based on a children’s book about a doubting boy who travels on a magical train and finds that, if he believes, that there really is a Santa. The story is stretched over an hour and utilizes a new computer animation technique. Actors have little sensors put all over there face and body. Then their performances are digitally entered into a computer and rendered as the computer characters. This allows Tom Hanks to play 5 characters including the child we follow throughout the film.

How Was It?

The animation was well done, but a little creepy. The people are almost real, but just plastic enough to be strange ( not to mention that they never blink). There are several scenes where things just degenerate into first person roller coaster effects. I found out that it was originally presented in IMAX 3D , which would make this repetitive effect a little less pointless.

The plot feels very contrived. There are several other kids added who each have “life lessons” of their own. Songs are trite and pointless. There is a moment with the train conductors looking for some part of the train (that causes another roller coaster screen) that is almost genuine cartoon fun. For the most part though, this is just numbing animation that tries to be deep, but mostly becomes confusing and contrived.

On top of it all, the charming “Classic Christmas” motif was nice until they shattered it with a weird cameo by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler as a rock singing elf.

Tom Hanks is a good actor, but the others….

Was It Good For Kids?

There is nothing particularly vulgar about the film.

You can check Screenit.com to see what exactly happens on the screen.

I have had kids tell me they liked it, but not have a lot to say about why. The issues here may be much more in the dizzying spiritual ideas that make as little sense as the rest of the poorly contrived plot. So without further ado ….

What About Spiritual Issues?

This film seems to have a lot about “belief” in it, not “believe in anything” but ” belief” for the sake of “belief” itself. The child does not believe in Santa, so he is whisked off to learn the power of “Belief.” At the end (spoiler) there is a bell that only those who “Believe” can hear. The boy learns to hear it and as he gets older, though most can no longer hear the bell , our hero can for his entire life.

The idea that belief is a power that needs to be applied for no reason, is not one that goes with the Bible. Our God is a specific being that gives proofs from the logic of the Bible to the wonder of creation. Our faith is not blind but educated. We can know God is there and our belief grows out of trust. Although some of the statements from the movie, if taken out of context, are true, it is still offer s you a “belief” in nothing.

The only time that the there is an object to of the belief is when a homeless man asks if the hero boy believes in ghosts. Though the boy says “NO”, he learns to believe in them as he is talk s to one who gives him aid throughout the rest of the film.

Still this is just Belief as the idea that you know something is real. Not belief in the sense that you have put your trust and hope in it.

What Is Your Recommendation?

This is just the slow moving, overly analysed and specialized humanism that Writer/Director Robert Zemeckis brought us in Forest Gump. There are a lot of good holiday films. This is not one of them. Though your children may be willing to be quiet for the time that the film is running, there are much better options for kids’ films. People will continue to say that they find “Christian Themes  in this film, but that is because they are not paying attention. They heard a word they knew and instead of seeing how the film was defining it, they inflicted there own definition on the movie. I can not see how this can be healthy or worth while.

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