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Polar Express, The (3D and IMAX 3D) (reissue)


Stars: Voices: Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari, Chris Coppola, Michael Jeter, Leslie Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen, Nona Gaye

Director: Robert Zemeckis

A vintage express train pulls up outside the home of a boy still struggling to believe in Santa Claus. And, with other kids, he heads for the North Pole.

Lovingly crafted, this snowy fantasy, now reissued in 3D, hovers between animation and live-action as the then-new process, Performance Capture, converts real actors into virtual images of themselves.

But, though the backgrounds and the train itself are dazzlingly imaginative, the new new system brought its own problems. Its human figures are so eerily close to reality that they resemble living waxworks with china doll eyes. Santa's elves are slightly creepy, and the kids all look too old to be on the journey.

Sequences of the train zig-zagging across an icefield are the film's best, but too little happens in the fairly lengthy runtime, prompting one youngster at the preview to ask 'Can we go home now?' after the first hour.

And it seems a mistake for Hanks to voice so many of the characters. More variation was needed. Vintage Christmas songs echo cloyingly on the soundtrack, but the film's moral is neat: with trains, it doesn't matter where you're going - what matters is deciding to get on.

Best realised of the characters is a ghost hobo who 'lives' atop the train. More vivid and original figures like this one would have made this a better and more exciting film.

David Quinlan

USA 2004. UK Distributor: Park Circus. Technicolor.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 06 Dec 2014