The Polar Express - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Polar Express Reviews

Top Critic
David Germain
Associated Press
December 9, 2013
People in Hollywood should never work with children or animals, W.C. Fields once said. Maybe that should be expanded to hyper-realistic computer-generated children and reindeer, too.
Top Critic
Keith Phipps
AV Club
December 9, 2013
As a spectacle, The Polar Express looks remarkable. As a film, however, it's the equivalent of an elaborately wrapped Christmas present containing a nice new pair of socks.
Top Critic
Bruce Diones
New Yorker
December 9, 2013
Tom Hanks (in a number of roles) and the other actors do a nice job of voicing their parts, but the waxy animated faces they've been given are off-putting.
Top Critic
Richard Schickel
TIME Magazine
December 9, 2013
At some point very early in the 3-D IMAX version of The Polar Express, technology trumps banality and you helplessly surrender to the shock and awe of this big, often thunderous movie.
Top Critic
Andrea Gronvall
Chicago Reader
December 9, 2013
Director Robert Zemeckis once again harnesses a new technology to an engaging fable in this digitally animated adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's holiday tale.
Top Critic
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
December 9, 2013
A train wreck of mind-numbing proportions.
Top Critic
Derek Adams
Time Out
February 9, 2006
As a complete package, Zemeckis' surreal, hallucinogenic adventure is pretty inconsequential.
Top Critic
Logan Hill
New York Magazine/Vulture
January 16, 2005
Strap yourself in and try not to vomit, because this is more of a theme-park event than a movie -- Pirates of the Caribbean in reverse, a wild ride stripped of its story, down to a rattling series of obvious, underwhelming effects.
Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
December 10, 2004
A failed and lifeless experiment in which everything goes wrong.
Full Review | Original Score: 1/4
Top Critic
Desson Thomson
Washington Post
November 12, 2004
A truly satisfying holiday picture, the kind everyone can enjoy, and which may even restore a little lost childhood in many adult viewers.
Top Critic
Rex Reed
New York Observer
November 11, 2004
Without a trace of real live people, you get special effects that are not special, visual talking points without personality, virtual reality that is anything but real.
Top Critic
Ella Taylor
L.A. Weekly
November 11, 2004
Another powerful children's story dulled into mediocrity by the worship of technology.
Top Critic
Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
November 11, 2004
Faithful to its source but stretches it to the snapping point.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Jennifer Frey
Washington Post
November 10, 2004
Not only do Van Allsburg's darkly magical illustrations come to glorious life in the film; so, too, do his familiar words.
Top Critic
Claudia Puig
USA Today
November 10, 2004
Simple and evocative, yet teeming with intriguing visual effects.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Geoff Pevere
Toronto Star
November 10, 2004
If I were a kid, I'd have nightmares. Come to think of it, I did anyway.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/5
Top Critic
Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
November 10, 2004
Its heart is in the right place, and its bell should ring for many enchanted children in its audience.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Bruce Newman
San Jose Mercury News
November 10, 2004
Barrels across the trackless landscape of our affections, arriving where no one would have thought to look for a big-budget Hollywood movie: in the terrain of the heart.
| Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
November 10, 2004
An enchanting, beautiful and brilliantly imagined film that constitutes a technological breakthrough.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 10, 2004
Visually, taking its cues (mostly) from Van Allsburg's Hopperesque art, The Polar Express is eye-popping. Storywise, however, it can be eyelid-drooping.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Jay Boyar
Orlando Sentinel
November 10, 2004
Climb on and you'll experience one of the great joys of moviegoing: seeing something that's like nothing you've ever seen before.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Top Critic
John Anderson
Newsday
November 10, 2004
Watching the dead-eyed population of Polar Express and their supposedly 'natural' movements made me think more of Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" than anything associated with Christmas.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Lisa Rose
Newark Star-Ledger
November 10, 2004
A botched technological experiment of Tron proportions, cold, remote and creepy rather than engaging, warm and jolly.
Top Critic
Megan Lehmann
New York Post
November 10, 2004
Devoid of 21st-century irony, this visually stunning, action-packed yuletide treat is sweet and, yes, magical in a way that will enchant kids and give older viewers a twinge of nostalgia.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
November 10, 2004
It's a sensation -- both a milestone in computer-animation and a likely Christmas classic.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Peter Debruge
Miami Herald
November 10, 2004
The key to enjoying this unique experiment rests, fittingly, on whether you are willing to set aside your own skepticism and go along with the movie's well-meaning and unmistakably original spirit. If so, it can truly be an exhilarating ride.
Top Critic
Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
November 10, 2004
I loved watching this movie; I loved even more watching children hugging mothers watching this movie.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Tom Long
Detroit News
November 10, 2004
Zombies have their place, but not in Christmas movies.
| Original Score: C-
Top Critic
Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
November 10, 2004
Looks as reassuringly retro as a 1950s Lionel train set still in its original box.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
November 10, 2004
Although it occasionally makes us feel as if whimsy has been run over by a train, Polar Express achieves some genuine enchantment, offering just enough storybook comfort to keep from flying off the rails.
| Original Score: B
Top Critic
Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
November 10, 2004
Polar Express honors its source, then exceeds it.
| Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
November 10, 2004
Those human characters in the film come across as downright ... well, creepy. So The Polar Express is at best disconcerting, and at worst, a wee bit horrifying.
Top Critic
Ty Burr
Boston Globe
November 10, 2004
A holiday oddity of the first rank: a breathtaking visual feast peopled by dead-eyed mannequins.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
November 10, 2004
It is a cold, distant and failed experiment, with a molasses-mired plotline and an obvious moral forced upon us like a mug of bad eggnog.
| Original Score: 2.5/5
Top Critic
Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
November 10, 2004
I could probably have tolerated the incessant jitteriness of The Polar Express if the look of it didn't give me the creeps.
Top Critic
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
November 10, 2004
There's a deeper, shivery tone, instead of the mindless jolliness of the usual Christmas movie.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
November 10, 2004
I only wish there were more of the disorienting -- more of the silently, hypnotically Van Allsburgian -- and less of the flat, linear, polished, technical brilliance with which this big-ticket vehicle runs its route.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
November 9, 2004
A delightful tale guaranteed to enthrall viewers of all ages.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Manohla Dargis
New York Times
November 9, 2004
Based on the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, this computer-animated feature is a grave and disappointing failure, as much of imagination as of technology.
| Original Score: 1.5/5
Top Critic
Jeff Strickler
Minneapolis Star Tribune
November 9, 2004
Entertaining and innovative animated film.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
November 9, 2004
There is wonder for us to cherish, courtesy of a spectacular visual sense. But there are also moments that deliver shock and awe instead, sequences of such exhausting, turbocharged jeopardy that it seems like we've wandered into a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
Top Critic
Bruce Westbrook
Houston Chronicle
November 9, 2004
A wondrous, dazzling, eye-popping adventure.
| Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
November 9, 2004
The Polar Express is a stunning technological achievement and, for the most part, a stirring emotional one.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
Top Critic
Steve Murray
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
November 9, 2004
The movie seems determined to be an instant Christmas classic, but its idea of seasonal awe comes straight off a factory conveyor belt.
| Original Score: C
Top Critic
Ed Park
Village Voice
November 9, 2004
Unnervingly smooth, mouths moving in strange, even frightening formations, the Polar people are the least convincing things on-screen, glaring impostors amid the otherwise painstakingly rendered scenery.
Top Critic
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
November 8, 2004
The Polar Express remains true to the book, including the bittersweet final image.
Top Critic
David Rooney
Variety
October 29, 2004
The Polar Express may succeed via the motion-capture process in replicating human movement by digitalizing the performances of live actors, but it fails to capture the subtlety of facial expressions or to fabricate sympathetic, evocative figures.
Top Critic
Duane Byrge
Hollywood Reporter
October 28, 2004
The film is not sheer wizardry; it also has heart.