Strap yourself in and try not to vomit, because this is more of a theme-park event than a movie—Pirates of the Caribbean in reverse, a wild ride stripped of its story, down to a rattling series of obvious, underwhelming effects. Robert Zemeckis takes Chris Van Allsburg’s lovely, understated children’s book about a magical train trip, then ramps it up as a video-game roller coaster, peppering in action sequences straight out of Indiana Jones. Forget the much-hyped motion-capture that makes Tom Hanks look as convincing as a rubber chicken. This movie is about the accessories: the massive train, piles of packages, glitter, fireworks—in other words, everything wisely avoided by the original tale. It’s tempting to complain that Zemeckis has pulled a George Lucas and let brilliant special effects run roughshod over dialogue and sentiment, except that the effects are so lame: The crowd animation pales in comparison with Lord of the Rings; the Northern Lights resemble a pastel screen saver; and the weird, icky elves (including a bizarre version of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler) look downright scary, half as convincing as the munchkins of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. Early in the film, kids ooh and ahh at a store-window Santa, but our grumpy protagonist notices the gears in his back. More obvious are the squealing gears in this overheated reinvention.