Movie Reviews: The Polar Express




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Laurence Washington

     Warner Bros. (1 hr. 30 min.)
     A young boy who doubts there is a Santa Claus, is whisked away by a train going to the North Pole.
     Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Peter, Scolari, Eddie Deezen, Michael Jeter
Bottom Line:


Although "The Polar Express" is a fantastic achievement in computer animation (a new process called performance capture where the actor’s movements are mapped over by animation), it has two obstacles working against it.

First: It’s being released the same time as Pixar’s "The Incredibles," which is a much better film in terms of storyline and animation. And secondly, it suffers the same fate of most over-the-road and time travel pictures. There’s a great build up during the trip, but once the characters arrive at their destinations there isn’t much to do. All the thrills and excitement is in the journey.

With that being said, "Forrest Gump" director Robert Zemeckis’ computer image tale follows a young boy, who lost his faith in Santa Claus, on Christmas Eve who awakes in the middle of the night to find a stream train pulling in front of his house. A conductor (Tom Hanks) advises the boy (who isn’t given a name) to climb aboard if he wishes to visit the North Pole where seeing is believing.

The boy climbs aboard and quickly makes friends with a little girl (Nona Gaye, the late Marvin Gaye’s daughter), befriends a sad lonely boy who live in the poor part of town, and an obnoxious know-it-all kid.

Getting to the North Pole is the stuff thrill rides are made of as the Polar Express zooms down 179 degree grades, jets through tunnels and over a frozen lake that splinters apart. For this critic, the high point of the film is when hot chocolate is served, and acrobatic waiters emerge with a song in their hearts while spinning cups and saucers their hands.

Upon arriving at the North Pole, that looks like a postcard of a 19th century German village, the trio embarks to explore Santa’s work shop and eventually meet St. Nick himself, plus a few elves, give or take a thousand or two. It’s even explained how Santa loads up his sled with toys and manages to make to every child’s house in one night.

Even though it’s common knowledge, one of the film’s shtick is Tom Hanks plays several characters: It’s fun to watch which character Tom Hanks will appear as next.

"The Polar Express," which was inspired by Chris Van Allsburgís children’s novel, might not become a Christmas staple, even though it succeeds in avoiding many Christmas cliches, but it’s an artistic masterpiece that’s magical and at times haunting.



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