Greg Tyler

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Christmas 2013: Polar Express

Part of the series Christmas 2013

Some lucky few children travel to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to meet Santa and discover the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas spirit

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Amazing. Polar Express really embodies the spirit but doesn't hang on to the horrible clichés others seem to think it necessary to use. At no point do you lose the Christmas vibe, even in scenes that really aren't playing it out, because it's so well ingrained in the plot.

I think the real difference is that Polar Express is tasteful in its Christmas display. Instead of big bawdy, over-the-top shows, it relaxes to a pleasant and soft atmosphere. The art style certainly helps, but at no point do you feel like the festive season is being rammed down your throat, which is important to me.

Ho-ho-who's in it?

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Tom Hanks plays several of the main characters, which I have absolutely no problem with, as he fulfils each one perfectly. However, the word "plays" is odd in this context, as Polar Express is done as high-detailed motion capture, often completely separating the acting and voice work. At first, I found the mo-cap really weird, as it's a half-way mark between animation and physical acting; but as time goes on, the style really comes into its own. Everything has enough realism to feel human, and not look entirely computer-generated, but it still has the ability to add those moments of magic, where incredible scenes can occur seamlessly with very human shots.

I appreciate the art style isn't for everyone, but since this is my review, I'm gonna darn-well give this category four stars.

Family fun

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ I would happily watch it again, and would recommend it whole-heartedly to all ages. Polar Express definitely crosses the distinction between "children's film" and "family film": whilst it's centred around children and their Christmas values, it really does make a huge effort to be totally accessible to everyone.

Jingle Bells

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ There are some requisite carols here and there, as well as a few other Christmas songs, but generally it's based in cinematic orchestral soundtrack. However, there are certain overtones of Christmas somehow smuggled into the OST that help it keep the spirit mentioned above. There's also a bit with an elf designed to look like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith singing away, which isn't necessarily Christmassy but made for an interesting double-take.

Overall

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I really liked Polar Express. It was very sweet, very good fun and had a nice, progressive plot. I personally really liked the art style, and the performances from everyone involved. It was a really engrossing, and quite different, film.

Just when the film ends, and you think it's spent all it's got, Josh Groban rocks up for the credits. Wonderful.

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