The Polar Express

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From the book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg

Except not really.

And first I have to say this: RAILROAD DAVID MADE US WATCH THIS. IT’S HIS FAULT. (Happy, Dave?)

This movie came out a year or two ago, and all we’ve heard since from the aforementioned R. D. has been, have you seen it? have you seen it? huh? huh? have you seen it???

We didn’t see it in the theaters, life was busy. I put it on my netflix queue and forgot about it. And by chance, it came bubbling to the top (of course) just about the time that Dave made his yearly visit.

So we watched it.

And yes, the animation is good, but nowadays one expects that. But…

You have to read the original story. It’s not really a big ol’ wowie-tears-in-the-eyes-laugh-out-loud-best-Xmas-book-I-ever-read kind of story. But it’s nice-quiet, beautifully illustrated, good feelings, just a nice little story that somehow became a real christmas classic. Not undeserving, just surprising.

But the movie. See, if the book was

like this!

the movie is

L i k e  T H I S !

Every single thing, nuance, line and mention in the book is taken, expanded and milked for all it’s worth…because it really is a very small, slight story. And they had to get a two hour movie out of it.

And we (Mr. Otter and I) really, really didn’t like it.

Firstly, it’s dull. There really isn’t any more story here than in the original book, which takes fifteen minutes to read out loud if you really ham it up. But the movie lasts two hours. And it’s obvious that they are padding like crazy.

Secondly, Tom Hanks has stomped all over this with his heavy iron boots. Now, I’m a big fan of Mr. Hanks…I even liked Forrest Gump, and that’s really saying something…although Castaway really sucked. Anyway. Tom Hanks does ALL the adult male voices. And since they have written as many parts into this as possible, he does a LOT of voices. So after the third person showed up and I said, wait a minute, that sounds like Tom Hanks too…I got it. Filmed in TOM-0-RAMA! with SURROUND TOM SOUND! in TOMACIOUS TOMNESS! It got old real fast, and really detracted from the movie itself, such as it was, because I kept listening to the voices instead of what they were saying, trying to figure out what he doing to make THIS voice sound different from the OTHERS. But they all sound like Tom Hanks, so there you go.

Thirdly…well, there are a lot of sort of thrilling bits added, but since everyone on the planet knows that the train is going to make it to the north pole, that the kids are gonna see Santa, and that they’re all going home safely…there’s not a whole lot of suspense or even <yawn> interest.

Yes, the animation was really good. BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. As I say over and over again: if you’re spending this much on a movie, YOU CAN AFFORD TO BUY A GOOD PLOT. And if you can’t, or don’t want to…well, why make the movie at all? (hear me, George Lucas? yes, I’m talking to you…)

So for goodness’ sakes, don’t feed into the hype. This is not a beloved Christmas classic, it’s a bunch of people making a lot of money for a not-very-good film. Chris Van Allsburg, the author of the book, made a hefty pile o’ change for selling the rights, and more power to him, but don’t you be fooled. Buy the book, read it and enjoy it. You’ll have a lot more fun, and save an hour and a half of time. And we all need more of that.

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