The Polar Express—Warner Brothers
A terrific musical score, a multifaceted performance from Tom Hanks, and a cool-to-watch animation style help elevate a disappointingly conventional Christmas story to a potential holiday classic.
The filmmakers used "performance capture" technology to animate Hanks and the other actors' actual movements, giving The Polar Express a highly lifelike look. While the result works best when the screen is populated by the characters, the film's high-concept set pieces, including the train slipping its rails on an icy glacier, will impress, as well. And Hanks, voicing five roles including the boy at the story's center, goes above and beyond.
In fact, the featurette "You Look Familiar," which highlights the star's versatile performance, is one of the best of the many short featurettes you'll find on disc two of this set. The performance-capture technique is interesting indeed, and it's fun seeing how the filmmakers animated the sensor-equipped actors. Other extras cover more behind-the-scenes aspects of the film, including the artistic style of author Chris Van Allsburg. You'll also find concert footage of Josh Groban performing the hummable theme song. Alas, there's no commentary by director Robert Zemeckis or anyone else.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic video is a pleasure to watch, bursting with color and details warranting more than one viewing. And the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack rocks, from the churning gears and pistons of the locomotive to Steven Tyler bringing down the house on the North Pole with a new Christmas rock classic. The kids will love it all, and their parents will appreciate the technical prowess and tunes.