There is no bigger Robert Zemeckis fan than me. In fact, several of his movies are probably in my top thirty of all time favorite films. The Polar Express however is not one of them. This is the beginning of that brief Robert Zemeckis dark era, when he was only interested in playing with his new animation style, which was capture motion, or motion motion, or whatever the hell it was called, I don’t really give a crap. Thankfully, after Mars Needs Mom (a movie he produced) tanked on a level worse than Green Lantern, it seems he’s finally stepped away from that crap, and is back where he belongs – directing awesome live action movies. I can’t say I hate this film. Its heart was in the right place, but let’s call this what it is – an excuse to experiment with new animation. Story and characters be damned, let’s test this sucker! The Polar Express is the Avatar of animated movies.
This is nothing but a bunch of video game cut scenes. This is absolute garbage. Other than Tom Hanks, the voice acting is utterly pathetic. Seriously, this is the type of line delivery you’d get in a middle school play. The writing here is bottom of the barrel fortune cookie wisdom at its worst. At one point an elf says “Mashugana.” Wow. Glad they didn’t forget the Jewish demographic. Thanks. All these characters are about as well developed as an ant farm. One character in particular (the kid with glasses) is annoying as hell. Yes, I understand that’s the point, but this kid could pass as Jar Jar Binks’ half brother. Holy mother of trains, he’s annoying.
I’ll admit the visual presentation is impressive, but visuals can only take you so far. At some point, I’m going to need to immerse myself in the story (See Avatar). Speaking of Avatar, whenever someone tells me, “Oh, but Dan, you got to be impressed with the visual effects. They are groundbreaking!” Yes, that’s true, but you know what other movies had groundbreaking visual effects? Star Wars. Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Terminator 2. Are those movies good because of their visual effects? No! We remember the story. The characters. It is actually possible to do both. Write a good script first. The effects come later (See Star Wars Prequels). The same exact theory can be applied to The Polar Express. Not only that, but the action sequences are boring. Oooooooo, look at the exciting ticket chase scene. Or how about the tension filled caribous on the track sequence. Oh, wow. I can hardly contain myself.
If you like this movie, I get it. It’s not for me, and I expect more from Robert Zemeckis, one of the greatest directors of all time. Also, and this has been said a hundred times, but the animation looks down right creepy at times, I’m sorry. The Polar Express – more like “The Boring Express.” Burn.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.