Tackling the legendary question: Does Santa Claus really exist? - this
timeless, adventure-filled odyssey to the North Pole chronicles one eight
year-old boy's struggle with doubts and his miraculous discovery that the
wonder of life never fades for those who believe.
Based on the popular children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, the lad's
journey begins on Christmas Eve when he hears the sound of a train outside his
front door. Rushing outside, he's invited aboard by The Conductor who has noted
his seasonal cynicism. Along the perilous trek, he learns the importance of
helping others in need, making friends and, above all, believing.
What's astonishing about this film is its technology. While it looks like
animation, it's not. It's an updated version of an old technique: "motion
capture." The characters were first filmed in live action with minimal props,
then they were digitally recreated, giving the concept a photoreal aura.
Eye-popping, high-tech feats are not unusual for Robert Zemeckis who blended
'toons with actors in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and digitally recreated history
in "Forest Gump." Some of the wizardry includes dancing waiters serving hot
cocoa to pint-sized passengers, the caribou crossing, the roller-coaster-like
run through Glacier Gulch, the discovery of forsaken toys, the thousands of
elves, the North Pole gift factory and the eventual launching of Santa's
Tom Hanks plays five different parts: the hero boy, his father, the train
conductor, the hobo and Santa Claus. Eddie Deezen, Peter Scolari, Nona Gaye and
the late Michael Jeter did the other main roles. On the Granger Movie Gauge of
1 to 10, "The Polar Express" is a sentimental, schmaltzy 9, evoking the
heartwarming magic of Christmas. So, can you still hear the bell?
Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger