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The Polar Express: 3-D

Two discs; Warner Home Video; $20.98

Reviewed by Richard von Busack

Sometime in the 1950s, a boy who doubts Santa is whisked away to the North Pole on a vintage steam engine. On the way, it transforms from passenger train to polar-coaster and finally to a funicular. The North Pole village is like a Mont St. Michel rising from the ice, as if designed by red-brick-crazed Victorians. A gruff ghost hobo who plays the hurdy-gurdy is the darkest part of the story, supplying the scary quality necessary to all Christmas stories. Robert Zemeckis' startling computer-animated technique for this 2004 feature fails occasionally, with instances of vacant, unfocused eyes or plastic-looking skin. Despite some of the direr predictions ("This technique will be able to replace actors completely!"), this kid-friendly film never transcends its purpose as holiday kids' stuff. Zemeckis' usual star Tom Hanks does the voices for the various adults. This two-disc set contains the original release, the 3-D version and four pairs of 3-D glasses. The 3-D effect proves hard to achieve on a TV set if you're already wearing eyeglasses, or so our review team found after considerable fiddling with the cardboard specs.

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