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The Polar Express 3D

A boy (Daryl Sabara) has lost the Christmas spirit and doesn't believe in Santa Claus. He awakes on Christmas Eve to the sound of a train arriving in his front yard. Invited to join the Polar Express on its journey to the North Pole by the train conductor (Tom Hanks), a magical world opens his eyes to the spirit of Christmas.

This has become another holiday classic for my family to enjoy, but I can't say seeing it in 3D offers an improved experience. The cheap red-and-blue cardboard glasses are woefully uncomfortable, and the wow factor wears out its welcome pretty fast. The highlight of the show is the wonderful musical score by Alan Silvestri, and the songs by Silvestri and Glen Ballard are quite heartwarming.

I thought this VC-1 encode looked pretty three dimensional in its previous incarnations on Blu-ray and HD DVD, but the 3D version does add more depth to the image. Still, color fidelity is sacrificed with the red-and-blue glasses. As with the 2D version, the image is intentionally softened, especially around the animated characters, to replicate the images in Chris Van Allsburg's book from which the movie is derived.

Along with the upgrade to 3D, the audio receives a boost with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack—the previous release included only a lossy Dolby Digital track. I currently have two BD players in my system, so I was able to do a direct A/B comparison between the two, and I found the TrueHD track to have a wider soundstage, tighter bass, and a much fuller sound overall compared to the lossy track. The roller-coaster scene offers excellent dynamics and a plethora of discrete surround effects—it's a real crowd pleaser.

The bonus features are the same as those found on the previous Blu-ray release. There are some behind-the-scenes featurettes, a look at the special effects, a Josh Groban performance of "Believe," and the theatrical trailer.

In comparing this to the previous Blu-ray release, I get more excited about the TrueHD soundtrack than I do about the 3D video, and including the 2D version was a smart move by Warner. The film is a visual spectacle in HD, so be sure to purchase your ticket for The Polar Express. All aboard!

Release Date: October 28, 2008

Movie: 8/10
Picture: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Review System

Source
Panasonic DMP-BD55

Display
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Electronics
Onkyo Pro 85 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

Speakers
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Cables
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

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