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Review Of Polar Express With Tom Hanks

668 words - 3 pages

Let me get this out of the way right now: I'm pretty sure kids will love The Polar Express, the full-length movie based on Chris Van Allsburg's beloved 32-page book. While I like to think that I still have an inner child, Robert Zemeckis's latest cinematic stunt gave me the wrong kind of chills. Using motion-capture CGI technology--live actors and cameras and reflective pellets and infrared capture receptors--Zemeckis has made a movie during which, every five minutes, the adults in the audience can tell themselves, "Ooh, that kind of looked real." As one of Tom Hanks's five characters says in the film, "Sometimes the most real things in the world are the ones we can't see."Hanks provides the motion-capture performance (though not the voice) for Hero Boy, a child who has ceased to believe in Santa Claus. On Christmas ...view middle of the document...

Whenever the screenwriters--Zemeckis and William Broyles, Jr.--are in doubt, they add a roller-coaster pastiche or some skiing business or a slalom. Too little of the high-speed-travel action is inventive, though a winking exaggeration of Zemeckis's feather riff from Forrest Gump provides an "oooohhh"-worthy sequence.When the loud, cluttery soundtrack slows down enough, we get John Williams twinkle from Zemeckis scorer Alan Silvestri, and a handful of original songs. The first, a horrifying ode to hot chocolate, gives off a certain flop-sweat desperation in its attempt to generate mirth. The animation of gravity-defying waiter-dancers dazzles, but Tom Hanks growling along with big-band brass, "Oh, we got it! So, we got it! Yo, we got it!" dampens the entertainment value. An artificially-sweetened duet between Hero Boy's two buddies, Hero Girl and Lonely Boy, fares better (Lonely Boy, by the way, is a euphemism for Poor Boy, but fear not: even he gets a happy ending).Despite it all, the film's only fatal failing is its inability to make any of the characters seem real. Most of them are downright creepy in their doll-like inexpressiveness. Yes, they approximate the actions and expressions of Tom Hanks, but only in the most plasticine way (not to mention Hero Boy's lack of bedhead, and absence of muss after a tumble in a coal pile). The Polar Express succeeds in fits and starts--some excitement is generated in the pursuit of a golden ticket--but only finds itself in its half-hour-long ending, in which the children infiltrate the secret machinery of Christmas. Ultimately, the ever-gear-shifting film resembles the Conductor's remark about Santa's multitudinous elves: "Well-oiled machine." I'm just an old-fashioned humanoid kind of guy, so sue me.

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