Posts Tagged ‘Santa’

The Polar Express

December 22, 2009

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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Elf

December 4, 2009

 501829elf-posters

What Is It?

This is a take off of every claymation Christmas special from the 60’s – 80’s with heavy emphasis on Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Will Ferrell plays Buddy The Elf. He is a very tall human who, much like Steve Martins “The Jerk”, did not notice that he was different from the hoard of Santa’s 3 foot elf’s who raised him. So taking all the attitude of said Christmas Specials and the three rules of an elf, Buddy travels to New York to meet his Dad (James Caan) even though Dad is a tough business man on the “Naughty List.”

 

How Was It?

 

It was funny. Will Ferrell manages to seem natural in this over the top character. My favorite part though is the introduction to elves and the north pole stammeringly narrated by Bob Newhart as Papa Elf. The other great thing is the sheer nuttiness of all the other characters. Well acted side characters all have there own quirks that help Buddy move seamlessly through New York. I think you will find this movie to be a series of very funny vinyets with just enough story and garland to string them together.

 

Is It Good For Kids?

 

Kids of the age for the original claymation will find a lot of fun and familier gags. Older kids will understand more of the juxtaposition of “Real Life” and “Elf Life”. There are a couple of jokes involving Buddy not understanding “adult” things, such as sending sexy women’s sleepwear to his father because the sign said it was perfect for “Someone Special” or following music to the woman’s locker room where a young lady is singing in the shower. It is very clear Buddy just wanted to sing along as in all his other whimsical misunderstandings. Buddy also uses God as a cuss word when he gets excited.

 

You can check Screenit.com for a break down of the elements on the screen.

 

What About Spiritual Issues?

 

First off this is all about Christmas and has not one reference to Christ. Luckily we do not get a “this is the meaning of Christmas” line to tell us it’s not Him, but just family or life or presents.

 

The odd thing here is the talk about Belief and Christmas Spirit. There is an easily made connection between Santa in this movie and God. (Spoiler) The end of the movie involves Santa (Edward Asner)crashed down in Central Park. In a Tinkerbell style conundrum, he can not fly because there is no more Christmas Spirit. Most likely the lack of Christmas spirit comes from a lack in belief in Santa, but it may just be a lack of belief in the concepts of love and magical generosity that Santa represents. He can not show himself because that would take away the correct type of Faith. A boy steals his gift list and reads it on TV. People are shocked at the accuracy where he even knows personal desires not just the one’s that kids wrote in their letters.

 

Spiritually we are left with some interesting questions.

Should Santa have attributes of God?

Faith is the evidence of things unseen, But is that faith based on wishful thinking?

Does prof destroy faith?

 

What Is Your Recommendation?

This is a funny light hearted movie. This does not destroy of de-mythologize fairytale but shows that they help us to live fuller more beautiful lives in the “real world”. In that light it is almost the kids version of “Lady in the Water”. Still the absence of God except as a cuss word and the notion of faith in Santa should give you something to think about when deciding if this film is right for you and your family and something to talk about if you do invite Buddy the Elf into your Christmas.

 

PS

If you do watch it. Keep your eyes open for a great re-do of the original big-foot “sighting” .

Elf