Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Polar Express

This one came so close to being a fully good movie that at times I could almost see its sweet victory celebration. It doesn’t quite make it, ending up feeling a bit more like a test drive to see how far Robert Zemeckis could push his CG team (in a similar, though superior, manner to Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within), but damn if it doesn’t come close.

As plots go, it aims fairly low, presumably attempting to create the kind of enduring children’s classic that Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph are, light on story and heavy on charm. Basically it can be summed up as “every year on Christmas Eve the children that are starting to disbelieve in Santa are given a ride to the North Pole on the Polar Express so they can retain their fairly pagan belief system. Hijinks ensue.” It’s all pleasant and charming enough, really, feeling at times like a gentler version of Willy Wonka, it’s just that, much like those older Christmas children’s classics, watching it as an adult makes you feel like you’re not really the intended audience. It doesn’t have that extra bit of depth to it that the best children’s movies have, so parents watching with their children can love the movies too.

I mentioned earlier that it felt a bit as though Zemeckis were testing out his new CG technology with this film, and there’s some truth to that. Two years after this, he produced (though didn’t direct) Monster House, which used the same basic technology, and just this past month he released Beowulf, which I haven’t had the chance to see yet, but which he supposedly perfected the CG work for. This may be one of Zemeckis’s weakest films (which, in all honesty, is a testament to him), but it’s good that he was able to build off of it like he has. Just so long as he doesn’t feel the need to use CG for his upcoming adaptation of A Christmas Carol. I don’t know that it would be a fully natural fit there.

Rating: ** ½

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