'Polar Express' Delivers Animated Christmas Magic

ByABC News

Nov. 12, 2004 — -- Now in theaters: "The Polar Express," "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," and "After the Sunset."

The Polar Express

'Twas the night before Christmas … and there's something fantastic stirring outside the house of a little boy losing faith in Santa Claus. It's a train ready to take him on a trip to the North Pole.

You've never seen anything like "The Polar Express." No one has. In the past, animation has made toys come to life and ogres fall in love. It's even made an elephant fly. That's easy. Animating people is tough, or at least it was until now.

Tom Hanks plays five parts in this film. Filmmakers used a brand-new process called "action capture" and digitized his movements. Actors could interact with other actors, but costumes and scenery were added later. Hanks didn't know until he saw the movie that the conductor he plays had a serious case of male pattern baldness. He was not amused.

As incredible as the technology is, what's even more incredible is the story it tells. Director Robert Zemeckis knows real storytelling isn't about seeing, it's about feeling.

I asked Hanks if he cried at the end, when he and the other three actors who play kids finally see Santa for the first time. The actors on set, however, didn't see Santa. It's all done with computers. They were looking at a green screen and Zemeckis was holding a red rubber ball on a stick to show where Santa was supposed to be. Hanks told me they still cried. It's that kind of movie. Grade: A-.

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

It's a new year and a new diary for Bridget Jones. "Edge of Reason" is a true sequel. It picks up where the first "Bridget Jones" leaves off, and you need to have seen the original to jump into the story.

Renée Zellweger, in the role for which she earned her first Oscar nomination three years ago, is back, and so is Colin Firth, the lawyer Bridget falls in love with, and Hugh Grant, the cad.

Bridget, of course, manages to lose both men. The script has lost something, too. One scene in which Bridget, who can't ski, fumbles her way down a mountain and somehow wins a giant slalom competition. It's a cheap joke. Terrible writing.

Still, there's so much charm from this exquisite cast, you fall in love with Bridget Jones all over again. Anyway, I did. And so did Colin Firth. Grade: C+.

After the Sunset

"After The Sunset," a caper movie, steals laughs. An FBI agent trails the world's greatest jewel thief to the Caribbean, and they strike up a strange friendship. They end up on a fishing boat, though neither can fish, and they catch a shark.

Pierce Brosnan is terrific as the retired burglar living on Paradise Island with his partner, Salma Hayek. Woody Harrelson is part Wile E. Coyote, part Elmer Fudd as the agent who tries to nail him, and newcomer Naomie Harris is dazzling as a Caribbean cop.

"After the Sunset" is a gem of a jewel heist movie. It's everything it sets out to be, and what it sets out to be is nothing but fun. Grade: B.