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The Polar Express

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Polar Express

Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rated: G
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 2004
Genres: Animation, Kids, Family, Christmas

*Also starring: Andrew Ableson, Debbie Lee Carrington, Jimmy Pinchak, Eddie Deezen, Josh Hutcherson, Chantel Valdivieso, Michael Jeter, Hayden McFarland, Peter Scolari

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

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 sleigh.

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

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