The Caldecott Medal-winner The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, has long been a favorite Christmas book, especially among children. It is for this reason that many movie-goers have been anxious to see this year’s computer animated movie based on the book. Expectations were high for the film, and this movie does not disappoint.
The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus. This doubt leads to his being offered a Christmas Eve ride on the Polar Express, a train which the conductor says is bound for the North Pole.
The boy takes a risk and boards the train, which is staffed by several interesting characters, including a group of singing, dancing waiters. After many exciting obstacles on the way, the Polar Express arrives at the North Pole, where the children are told that they will meet Santa.
The boy sees Santa, who gives out the first present of Christmas, and his doubts are eradicated. On Christmas morning, the boy receives a gift that will keep his belief alive for the rest of his life.
Tom Hanks voices several characters, including the Hero Boy, the Conductor, and Santa, among others. He also serves as the visual model for the Conductor and, to a lesser extent, for other characters. Hanks does well in all of his parts, but it is at times a bit disconcerting to hear variations of his voice coming from so many different characters in one movie.
The visuals in this movie are absolutely amazing. Due to what is possibly the most realistic computer animation yet, at times the characters almost seem to be alive. The action sequences are breathtaking and suspenseful.
Setting aside the wonderful story, this movie is worth the cost of admission if only for the visuals.