Free showing sponsored by Lewis County office for the Aging, Northern Regional Center for Independent Living (NRCIL) and NY Connects
This is a FREE showing (everyone welcome) with free popcorn to the first 300 people
On the one hand there are many delightful moments in THE POLAR EXPRESS, not the least of which is the entire look of the film–appealing in a way that great illustrations of children’s books always are to young and old. Tom Hanks and the others enter into the spirit of the whole thing with gusto–and all the performances are right on target.
On the other hand, much of the film is an excuse to dazzle with roller-coaster-like rides on the express train that roars across various landscapes making wild leaps and turns, all the while thrilling us with a sense of adventure and excitement. For the very young, the ride might be a scary one, especially when the daring young hero rides atop the train during a blustery snowstorm.
Things barely quiet down once the destination is reached at the North Pole. Still there are dangers lurking and the thrills continue with some amazing photographic tricks that can only be done in this new process of computer generated animation.
And to add a cozier touch to the proceedings, certain famous Christmas songs are interjected at intervals to give the North Pole–and the film–a warmer glow.
All in all, quite an imaginative and innovative achievement–impressive enough to assure its place among future Christmas favorites with unlimited appeal for the young in heart. The message of Christmas is lightly hinted at but when Tom Hanks as the train conductor tells the little boy, “The true meaning of Christmas is in your heart,” we can be assured that children everywhere will definitely “get it”.
Visually, it’s a stunner. I didn’t see it on the IMAX screen where I imagine it really knocks your socks off, but at a multiplex where picture and sound were impressive enough to convey just how advanced special effects technology has become. There is much artistry involved here, especially when the night scenes of the train’s fast-moving travel through a blustery snowstorm capture some rich winter landscapes, including a frozen lake that threatens to demolish train and passengers before danger has passed. The camera-work is continually fascinating as is the artwork involved.
A pity there couldn’t have been more of a story in the children’s book which is the source–but the artistic visuals are the main source of entertainment here and they are superb. The busy background score by Alan Silvestri is reminiscent of works by John Williams. Although none of the sprightly song tunes are particularly memorable, there is a wistful quality to one of the new Christmas ballads sung by the children.
P.S. – I have just watched it on DVD, a year after writing the above review–and it’s definitely a keeper–just as wonderful as you could want, an amazing technological achievement that should delight all ages who can still hear that bell! Tom Hanks, as the conductor, is my favorite character–brilliant job.