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The Polar Express (Widescreen Edition) (2004)

A movie directed by Robert Zemeckis

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Too Much, yet not Enough, of a Good Thing

  • Nov 24, 2005
In 1985 sculptor Chris Van Allsburg published his first children's book, THE POLAR EXPRESS, which became an instant classic, especially appropriate for family reading during the holidays. The beauty of the book was not only a simple story about a lad's discovery of the real meaning of Christmas, but also the power of Allburg's glorious art - which was awarded with the Caldecott Medal in 1986.

Some of that book is retained and some of that is lost in this grossly overproduced, extravagantly expensive, film transition of the book. For reasons only known to director Robert Zemeckis, who also adapted the story for his film, and to his long time friend Tom Hanks, the decision was made to make not just an animated feature and not a computer enhanced film using actors, but a strange amalgamation of the two. We are seeing puppet-like characters morphed to resemble real people - and that must have caused the animators headaches but earned big money!

But despite the bigger than life extravaganza version of basically an intimate story, the theme comes through and the message is sweet. Whether the 'fillers' heavily frosted on this version are additive is up to the taste of the viewer. But it is a tour de force for Hanks who plays almost everyone in the film, and it is evident that the film's heart is in the right place. Grady Harp, November, 05

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More The Polar Express (2004) reviews
review by . December 09, 2010
An incredible adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's beloved children's storybook, Robert Zemeckis manages to take the basics and the message of THE POLAR EXPRESS and also add more characters, and even exciting roller coaster-esque sequences to broaden the entertainment value of THE POLAR EXPRESS.       The voice acting by the children and by the five characters Tom Hanks embodies is very well-done. Even more well-done is the CGI animation, the first animated film done …
review by . December 29, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
My daughter has defiantly enjoyed this film. Robert Zemeckis is one of the most creative movie minds in the business. He has always been way ahead in movie technology. Whether it was Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or Forrest Gump, Zemeckis has always been where the future technology is. And the same goes for The Polar Express, which is a visual masterpiece... and an okay story.    As stated earlier, the visual effects are amazing in this movie. Zemeckis used a motion …
review by . November 29, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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About this movie


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

The World of The Polar Express
The book by Chris Van Allsburg

The Soundtrack

The Magic Journey (Polar Express the Movie) (book)

Stills from Polar Express (click for larger image)


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Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Animation, Family
DVD Release Date: November 22, 2005
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
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