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Just like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night, THE POLAR EXPRESS ($30) is the perfect holiday treat.  Based upon the book by Chris Van Allsburg, THE POLAR EXPRESS tells the story of a young boy who wants to believe in Santa Claus, but is in need of tangible proof.  The next thing you know, there is a train stopped in front of the boy’s home whose final destination is the North Pole.  Thus begins the adventure of a lifetime for the boy, as the trip to the North Pole proves to be a wild Rollercoaster of a ride in which our young hero makes some new friends; saves the day on more than one occasion and comes to discover the true meaning of Christmas.  THE POLAR EXPRESS has been beautifully animated in the digital realm and the film has the wondrous look of a series of Christmas cards rendered three dimensions.  Tom Hanks supplies the voices for the majority of the film’s main characters, while Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari, Eddie Deezen, Michael Jeter and Leslie Zemeckis provide voices for the other characters.

Warner Home Video has made THE POLAR EXPRESS available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays.  This is a truly lovely transfer that brings out almost all of the beauty contained in the digital image.  The levels of sharpness and detail are at the limits of what can be rendered at NTSC resolution.  Colors appear warm, rich and lustrous and reproduced without noise or defects.  Blacks are pure, whites are crisp and the image is well contrasted in the digital realm.  Film based flaws are non-existent on this DVD.  Digital compression artifacts are always well concealed.

THE POLAR EXPRESS comes with a rather potent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack.  Unconstrained by the real world, the sound designers have created a playful mix that makes the most of the outlying channels during the film’s more action oriented moments.  As for the quieter moments, the track creates ambience and a nice sense of acoustic space.  The sound field is cohesive and enveloping, yet is nicely spread throughout the listening environment.  Fidelity is excellent, which gives the sound effects weight and makes the most of Alan Silvestri’s music.  Dialogue is warmly rendered and easy to understand.  French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set.   Disc one includes only a theatrical trailer. Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming.  You Look Familiar: The Many Polar Faces of Tom Hanks is a four-minute program that focuses on Tom Hank’s multiple characterizations in the film.  A Genuine Ticket To Ride clocks in at eleven minutes and is broken into a five-part (not including introduction) look behind-the-scenes at the digital production.  An Author's Adventure provides a five minute glimpse at Chris Van Allsburg, the author of the book upon which the film is based.  Josh Groban At The Greek offers a four-minute performance of the film’s closing song.  Behind The Scenes Of Believe is another four minutes dedicated to the closing song. Meet The Snow Angels finds various members of the cast and crew sharing their Christmas memories in this brief two-minute plus program.  Additional Song offers a rough footage of a cut segment from the film. Polar Express Challenge is an interactive game for the kids.  A THQ Game Demo and some hidden goodies close out disc two.

THE POLAR EXPRESS is a marvelous holiday treat that has been beautifully rendered on DVD by the fine folks at Warner Home Video. The DVD makes a great stocking stuffer for this year and something to be shared at the holidays in the years to come. Recommended.



The Polar Express (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition) (2004)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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