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by Phil Boatwright at www.moviereporter.com
November 10, 2004
Voices of Tom Hanks, Ichael Jeter, Peter
Scolari, Nona Gaye
Robert Zemeckis & William Broyles, Jr.
In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.
The Polar Express
By Phil Boatwright
- A little boy on the verge of no longer believing in Santa Clause
is awakened Christmas Eve to what appears to be an earthquake. He runs
out the front door to find a locomotive where the street used to be. A
friendly conductor bids him aboard and the lad soon finds himself on his
way to the North Pole along with other adolescent nonbelievers to see
Kris Kringle himself. On the way, he and the other children have several
adventures, mostly concerning the near wrecking of the train.
It’s rated G, it stars Tom Hanks, Warner Bros. put all their X-mas-present-buying
loot into the production, and it has a holiday theme. It can’t lose.
And as long as the very little ones aren’t scared out of their PJs
by all the dangerous situations the kids on board get into, I’m
sure it will be a family favorite this season.
But I have a few problems with The Polar Express. Now, it’s
a fantasy, so I guess we don’t need to spend time warning young
ones of friendly strangers luring them away from home without the knowledge
of their parents. Okay, we’ll let that one pass. But I have other
issues, the main one being with yet again another cinema chestnut whose
theme is that of believing in the big fat man with the long white beard.
In some movies, such as Miracle of 34th Street, Santa refers
to himself as a symbol. The premise of that film concerns believing in
things unseen. But this film is not so much a lesson in having faith as
it is bound and determined to get kids to believe in, shhh, you know who.
And once again, we have a Christmas movie stressing that the true meaning
of the holiday is about family, festivities and presents. In the hearts
of Christians everywhere, Christmas is a day we celebrate the birth of
the world’s Savoir. But in Tinseltown, it’s too often about
filling Christmas stockings. Their Christmas stockings.
Then there’s the CG animation. According to the press notes it
is cutting-edge computer generated technology. The innovation allows live-action
performances to be copied into a digital animation form. To tell you the
truth, I thought it was kind of creepy. I won’t say their eyes were
lifeless, but something was missing. They look soulless, fake, like androids.
So why do this process rather than filming actors? Because they can. We
live in a time when things are done simply because they can be. It’s
rather like replacing a ringer on a cell phone with a microchip that plays
a few bars of Mozart or Burt Bacharach. It’s that because-they-can
Now, we come to the manipulative direction of Robert Zemeckis (Forrest
Gump, Cast Away). Though Mr. Zemeckis is unquestionably
a talented director, there are two elements alone that make up his effort
here and he beats them both to death: saccharine sentimentality and cartoonish
roller coaster thrills. As for the former, there’s enough sweetness
in this film to send a Sugar Plum Fairy into insulin shock. As to the
latter, it may be too intense for the smallest members of your family.
We see a train going out of control several times, and a child nearly
falling off the top of a railway car as he attempts to walk across it,
plus children crossing a fathomless crevice by means of a narrow rail,
as well as other stressful situations. These kids are constantly falling
into or off of something. It was unnerving even for this jaded movie junky.
It’s not a terrible, gosh-awful movie, but neither is it the captivating
wonder it should have been.
Rated: G (There are some positive life lessons concerning
friendship and what’s really important in life, but beware the many
life-threatening situations that make up this action adventure. Parents
should attend to reassure little ones).
Video Alternatives: Miracle On 34th Street.
Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson. The manager of a New York department
store hires Kris Kringle to be the store Santa. Soon the old fellow has
to convince the woman and her precocious daughter that he truly is Father
A delight and a rarity, as this is one of the few worthwhile remakes.
Full of laughter, poignancy and charm, it is noteworthy for containing
both visual and verbal Christian metaphors and points out that Santa is
a symbol. It contains a great visual: A cross lit in Christmas lights
on the side of a building, centered in the screen with decorated trees
outlining the tableau. What an image! It places the true meaning of the
holiday at the center of the screen and the story. There's even a Thanksgiving
prayer – when’s the last time you saw that in a Hollywood
Although Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood have nothing to worry about, the
newer Miracle is heartwarming. The scene where
Santa communicates with a little deaf girl is worth the rental price.
PG (one expletive; Santa is provoked by the villain,
but he later repents).
Or if you would rather skip on Old St. Nick, try: The Greatest
Adventure – The Nativity. A respectful animated homage
to the greatest story ever told, with three young archeologists going
through a time portal and finding themselves in Jerusalem during the birth
Please remember, as a movie reporter, I try to give the positive and negative
of a film. While I hope you enjoy reading my opinion, I pray it is the synopsis
and content that help you decide if the new release is suitable for your
family’s viewing. I suggest the video alternatives because they address
similar themes but lack today’s objectionable content.
Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. Review used
by permission. Go to Phil Boatwright's website at www.moviereporter.com
for details on how to have reviews of new films delivered directly to
your e-mail address.
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