The whole family went to see "Polar Express" in IMAX 3D last night. It's very impressive technically -- falling snow seeming to whirl around you, soaring with an eagle, zooming with the train down the world's steepest grade. It was way too intense and suspenseful for our four year old, who kept protesting that she was "too tired" to watch the movie -- which is her way of saying she's scared, but she won't say she's scared because she's a big girl and her big brother isn't scared. She spent a lot of the movie in Mommy's lap, facing away from the screen, occasionally looking back over her shoulder.

The movie is like a journey into a Thomas Kinkade painting -- everything's all warm and glowing. I did get drawn into the movie, although on reflection the story's a bit thin, and disbelief unsuspended itself at several points. When I saw thousands of identically-dressed elves massed in North Pole's central plaza, I sort of expected to hear praises to Kim Jong-Il. And when the main character whispers to Santa what he wants for Christmas, I leaned over to my wife and said, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"

A bit of accidental humor comes in a scene in Santa's monitoring room, when the elves on duty are alerted to a boy being naughty: He put gum in his sister's hair on Christmas eve. The boy's location: Maplewood, New Jersey, which happens to be the location of the school district that has banned perfomances of religious holiday music this year.

The South Orange and Maplewood school board shouldn't have any qualms about showing this movie at school. It is devoid of any religious references, other than the frequent use of the word "Christmas." No creches, no angels, no wise men, and especially no Jesus. In "Polar Express," Christmas is all about believing in Santa.

Still, if you can overlook that deficiency, it's an impressive film to see in IMAX 3D, and a family-friendly evening's entertainment.

UPDATE: Here's a review of the movie by Adeodatus. This quote will give you a sense of where he's coming from:

Let me say up front that I am not a big fan of the Santa myth as it has come down to us. About this time of year a few years back J. looked out the window on the drive to school and asked if Santa Claus was real. Sure he was real, I told him. I saw his bones in a box.

He goes on to compare "Polar Express" to other secular Christmas programs like "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

OOPS: Forgot to hat-tip Swamphopper of The Rough Woodsman for the link to Adeodatus's review.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 18, 2004 2:24 AM.

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