I became entranced with Chris Van Allsburg's book The Polar Express while working in a bookstore during college. For those who don't know, Allsburg is also the author of Jumanji and Zathura, both of which have been brought to the big screen.
My 7 year old son has been a train fanatic for years, so when we heard that The Polar Express being made into a movie, we were thrilled! My husband, son, and I went to the theater to see the movie and absolutely loved it.
The animation is unique (I've not seen anything quite like it and we own a LOT of CGI/animated DVD's!), the colors are vibrant, and the story is both whimsical and meaningful. I especially like the idea that each child had partial words punched into their tickets--indecipherable until they learned a particular lesson while on the journey to the North Pole.
The songs are beautiful as is the soundtrack. "Hot Chocolate" is a rousing song sung by waiters who transformed an ordinary traincar into a magical "cafe" for the delicious treat.
Unfortunately, there are NO extras on the single Disc DVD save the theatrical trailer. Scene Selection is available as is choosing English, Spanish, or French--either spoken or in the form of subtitles.
After watching the entire DVD twice (my husband just bought it 4 hours ago!), my son is now watching it for the third time--now in Spanish. What surprises me is that the Spanish actors sound very, very similar to the ones in the original. Even the whiny, nasally know-it-all keeps his chracteristic voice!
If you don't mind the lack of extras, the single Disc version will do just fine. It's available in wide screen and full screen. My only complaint--and this is why I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5--is that it had NO insert in the front cover. No pamphlet, no booklet, no coupons--nothing! I can't remember a time where I've gotten a family-oriented DVD and it not have a booklet on the inside!
Retaining the mystery and the magic, The Polar Express is an excellent film in the spirit of Van Allsburg's book. It will be well-loved by train enthusiasts, kids-at-heart, and those who believe.
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Janet Boyer (JanetBoyer)
Author of The Back in Time Tarot BookandTarot in Reverse. Co-creator of theSnowlandDeck. Amazon.com Hall ofFame/ VineReviewer; Freelance Writer/Reviewer; Blogger; Professional Tarot Reader/Teacher; Lover … more
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Destined to become a holiday perennial,The Polar Expressalso heralded a brave new world of all-digital filmmaking. Critics and audiences were divided between those who hailed it as an instant classic that captures the visual splendor and evocative innocence of Chris Van Allsburg's popular children's book, and those who felt that the innovative use of "performance capture"--to accurately translate live performances into all-digital characters--was an eerie and not-quite-lifelike distraction from the story's epic-scale North Pole adventure. In any case it's a benign, kind-hearted celebration of the yuletide spirit, especially for kids who have almost grown out of their need to believe in Santa Claus. Tom Hanks is the nominal "star" who performs five different computer-generated characters, but it's the visuals that steal this show, as director Robert Zemeckis indulges his tireless pursuit of technological innovation. No matter how you respond to the many wonders on display, it's clear that The Polar Express represents a significant milestone in the digital revolution of cinema. If it also fills you with the joy of Christmas (in spite of its Nuremberg-like rally of frantic elves), so much the better.--Jeff Shannon