The performances captured are fantastic.... Robert Zemeckis directs the film with epic dramatic flourish and attention to the minutiae of detail
And The Polar Express is whichever way you look at it – technically, artistically, in terms of all the expected plaintive emotion of seasonal family entertainment – a magical film.
Roger Ebert says this film
is a movie for more than one season; it will become a perennial, shared by the generations. It has a haunting, magical quality because it has imagined its world freshly and played true to it, sidestepping all the tiresome Christmas cliches that children have inflicted on them this time of year. The conductor tells Hero Boy he thinks he really should get on the train, and I have the same advice for you.
CNN, the New York Times, Salon.com, Rolling Stone and BBC don't like it. EW doesn't like how different the film is from the book.