The Polar Express
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Chris Van Allsburg's original
storybook, “The Polar Express,” also generates
a new liveliness and magic that kids will love and enchant
film, which reunites Tom Hanks with director Robert Zemeckis
(“Forrest Gump”), is a
technical landmark. It is the first feature shot in cutting-edge
performance capture technology. The technique, which attaches
sensors to actors' faces and bodies and records their movements,
which are then animated, has its shortcomings. The eyes in
the characters' faces are not especially convincing. It's a
quibble. The digital animation allows for beautiful vistas
and stunning action sequences that could never be done with
live actors. The technology permits Hanks to play five of the
major roles, including Hero Boy.
Despite its state-of-the-art
technology, the story itself is simple. A small boy has doubts
about Santa Claus' existence and he noses around the house,
feeling his parents are trying to make him believe in the
chubby guy. At midnight of Christmas Day, the boy is stirred
from his sleep by the roar of a train coming to halt in front
of his house and conductor asks if he is coming aboard. Destination?
The North Pole.
The boy hops aboard in his PJs and slippers. He meets other children, Hero Girl
(Nona Gaye). Know-it-All Boy (Eddie Deezen) and Lonely Boy (Peter Scolari). They
enjoy hot chocolate served by tap dancing waiters. When Hero Boy train-surfs
to retrieve Hero Girl's lost ticket, he also meets a hobo (Hanks) on the top
of the train. Once at the Pole, he sees Santa give out his first gift.
The lost ticket sequence is one of the most poetic and memorable sequences
in the movie, involving golden ticket swirling in the wind, chased by wolves
and swept aloft by an eagle. There's an exciting moment when the train skids
across an icy expanse and turns into a roller coaster. The kids' shared experiences
on board and the mysterious kind conductor, who punches messages in their tickets,
plus their experiences at the North Pole with Santa are an engaging story.
(100 minutes, G, animated).#