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Monday, December 22, 2014

Let’s get this out right up front – I cannot stand Tom Hanks. After Bachelor Party, I find most of his films unwatchable. I consider his career almost a complete waste because the guy is absolutely brilliant at comedy and just refuses to do anymore comedy. Movies like Big and Splash made him famous, and then he started doing movies like Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Stupid, multi-talented and likeable Tom Hanks. Ok, I actually like Tom Hanks. But I just don’t like to admit it.

When I heard that Tom Hanks was doing a Christmas movie, I was not very excited by it and I certainly did not expect it to be a classic. My first experience with the Polar Express was in 3D at the IMAX with my wife. The snow looked real and the train looked like it was coming out of the screen at me. When you add in the fact that this is a really good story, then you have a grand introduction to a classic Christmas movie.

Let’s get something else out of the way up front – what classifies this movie as a classic? Well, for one thing, I say so. My column, my rules. Secondly, it passes every test that comes with being a classic movie. It is an original and very good story, the movie itself is well-done and it is a movie that people want to see over and over again. When it comes to classifying classics, the will of the people is a big consideration.

When I say that the movie is “well-done,” I don’t mean that it is technically perfect. The Blair Witch Project is a classic horror film and that movie is far from technically perfect. The Polar Express tells its story completely and without leaving anything behind. The only parts that are left to our imagination are the ones that were supposed to be left to our imagination. I hate movies that try to be cute and leave things to our imagination that probably should have been spelled out a little better. I’m looking at you M. Night Shamalamadingdong.

It is incredibly easy to get caught up in this movie and, if you are a huge fan of Christmas, then you are a tad bit anxious to see what Robert Zemeckis thinks the North Pole is supposed to look like. The movie is fun, but it also weaves in a lot of interesting characters to give it substance. Everyone from the elves to the parents in this movie has interesting character traits and that creates a very full movie.

The visuals in this movie are wonderful. In 2004, animation was just starting to come into its own and the idea of actors acting out scenes in special suits and then using that information to animate the characters was relatively new. I remember the media making a pretty big deal out of the fact that Tom Hanks acted out all of his parts in this movie so that his motions could be animated. The effect is used well in the movie, but it is not over-used. Some movie makers tend to beat a new effect into the ground and bore us with its look by the end of the movie. Still, looking at you M. Night.

So The Polar Express meets all of the criteria for a Christmas classic and it has even spawned a real train ride from Lockport to Medina called the Polar Express. Next year, when my grandson is just a little older and probably old enough to know what is going on, I am going to show him the Polar Express movie and then take him on the Polar Express. Imagine the strong ties to Christmas that kind of experience will create. It is something that only a movie like the Polar Express could do.

When that experience is over, my grandson will look at every train like it is going to the North Pole. As he gets older, he will still have that in the back of his mind. Only a classic Christmas movie opens up doors like that and only The Polar Express offers us the chance to create real, tangible Christmas memories that will last a lifetime.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope that your holiday season is the happiest and healthiest it can be. One more review to go in 2014, and I have something very interesting in mind to close out the year.

George N Root III is a drive-in enthusiast and Christmas’ biggest fan. His reviews appear every week and he wishes each and every one of you a happy holiday season.

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