Following their previous hits Forest Gump and Cast Away, Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks have worked together again to produce a magical yuletide tale, with Hanks lending his voice to more than five characters.
The story, therefore, follows a boy (Tom Hanks) who begins to suspect that Father Christmas (Tom Hanks) doesn't really exist. While laying awake and listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve, however, a steam train pulls up outside the boy's house, and the Conductor (Tom Hanks) informs the unbeliever that this is The Polar Express, bound for the North Pole.
And so the boy and a group of similarly pyjama clad kids embark on a train ride fraught with peril to meet the famous Mr Claus before he starts his long journey around the world, delivering presents to the children on the Good List.
It became apparent fairly early on in the film that The Polar Express must be based on a childrens' book (by Chris Van Allsburg as it turns out) – there's just something about it that feels like an adaptation. The knock on effect is that the film seems like a short story that has been dragged out into a feature length movie by the liberal stuffing of frenetic action sequences, although not having read the book it is hard to tell if this is the case.
What's worse, is that despite all the action scenes, the pace of the film actually seems very slow, leaving just the magical quality of the film to keep young ones interested for more than an hour and half.
It's an unusual tactic to have Tom Hanks doing so many of the voices in the film, and being based on a book and set entirely at night, you can't help but think the makers have tried and failed to give the film a "bedtime story" atmosphere – a good idea, but not one that has worked very successfully in this case.
This is a lovely Christmas film and it has been interestingly executed, but the slow pace and the feeling that the content has been stretched thinly means it will probably be very hit and miss with children. However, having had a bit more time to reflect on it, I've decided if it was Christmas Eve and this came on telly, I might well sit in front of the fire with a sherry and watch it again... it is Christmas, after all.