The Polar Express

I loved The Polar Express. Just saw it this morning, and I thought it was wonderful. It ranks very close to Pirates of the Caribbean for me, in that it was that kind of pure entertainment that makes a trip to the multiplex worthwhile and satisfying. The Polar Express is a different kind of entertainment that Pirates, but films like these are strong reminders of what Hollywood is capable of when all the creativity is generously poured into bringing stories like these to the screen for the enjoyment – and in this case, inspiration- of a broad audience (however North American and northern hemisphere that may be…)

By now everyone knows that Tom Hanks plays at least four parts in this amazingly animated film; sometimes the characters look almost … real.

The story goes that a young boy is of the age when he starts to doubt the existence of Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve he is torn between believing or not. He even looks up the North Pole in his encyclopedia (so this is set before the age of computers!) and knows that it is a floating geographic place that could not sustain Santa’s workshop.

Soon after he goes to bed, he hears a train outside and goes to investigate. The conductor invites him aboard, but he can’t make up his mind. As the train leaves, though, he jumps on and joins other children on their way to the North Pole. He makes friends with a young girl, and a know-it-all kid annoys them. As they pass to the “other side of the tracks”, they stop at a house without any decorations and a small boy, Billy, is standing outside. He decides not to board, but the hero of the story and the girl go back for him. Their trip to the North Pole is like a giant roller coaster ride – so if you like these, and are a fan of model trains, you will enjoy many aspects of The Polar Express.

They arrive at the North Pole just before the stroke of midnight … and I would tell you what they find and but you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!

On the way to the North Pole, the hero-girl and Billy sing a gentle and heartfelt Christmas ballad that may bring a tear to your eye. The film knows that loneliness is the most difficult part of Christmas (Billy says that Christmas has never been much for him) and that friends and family can make all the difference in the world.

Expertly directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg.

The Polar Express has Oscar potential.

It is not a religious film per se, but it is full of the gifts of the Spirit.

Certainly this is a family film, but very young children might find it a bit slow-going. However, it is an intelligent, beautifully crafted film and embraces the audience as it entertains and – inspires.



Cinderella Story, A

A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff as the over-worked and ill-treated teen, is an updated ‘tween version of the fairy tale, only for those who have strong teeth that won’t melt from the sugar.

I just voted at (I gave it a 2 out of 10) and saw that viewers either loved it or hated it. Roughly 25% have it a 10 (excellent) and 25% gave it a 1 (awful) and all other votes scattered in between. It must have hit it’s target market: girls loved it and parents – or a huge number of critics – hated it. After all, with Chad Michael Murray as Prince Charming and Jennifer Coolidge (remember, she was Paulette in Legally Bond) it had some entertainment value. To me it was just a showcase for Miss Duff. I enjoyed Drew Barrymore’s Ever After: A True Cinderella Story much more, not least of which was the presence of Anjelica Huston as the evil step-mother.  

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Hi everyone!

At long last I am back from my trip to Rome and my 30 Day Retreat. It was awesome, especially the silence. Silence is a gift.

I went to see two new films today, and I will be writing about them, but first let me play “catch up” once again on recent films that I missed (blessedly) in theaters, but caught up with on the long flights to and from Rome.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was one big bark, like that of a dog howling under a full moon and starving. I thought that Vince Vaughn’s acting as Peter, the owner of the gym about to go under financially, was so laid back that he was almost horizontal. The adolescent emphasis on male body parts isn’t lost on anyone, least of all Ben Stiller as White Goodman, the wealthy owner of the chain of gyms about to buy up Peter’s when it goes into foreclosure. Enter Kate, the lawyer for the bank who takes sides with Peter and his den of kind-hearted,  delusional athletes, especially Steve, who thinks he is a pirate and dresses and acts accordingly. Arrrgh!

Members of both gyms end up battling it out at a dodgeball contest in Vegas. Guess who wins?

For a film that had to be really low budget, there was one part that I thought was very thoughtful and gave me something good to take away from the quasi-agony of the viewing. When Steve the Pirate goes missing, I think it is the character Justin (or Gordon – can’t recall) who doesn’t even realize they have had a play-pirate on their team. Steve shows up just before the finale, hair cut and shaved – unrecognizeable to all except Justin who calls out, “There’s Steve.” He never saw the outward trappings of the pirate that Steve hid behind, but only the real person. Nice touch to an otherwise forgettable film.