When I think of Christmas movies, there are a select few that I love to watch every year. There’s Christmas Vacation, Christmas with the Kranks, The Holiday, and more. But the one that I enjoy the most, especially on Christmas Eve, is The Polar Express. I love watching this film during the holiday season because of how festive it is, and really captures the holiday spirit. Now it isn’t perfect, but the positives for sure outweigh the negatives with this one.
We start off focusing on a young boy who is having a lot of trouble believing the whole Santa Clause thing. And of course this is a real problem considering it’s Christmas Eve and Santa will soon be on his way. Thankfully, in the middle of the night, this boy sees a train pull up in front of his house and the conductor tells him it’s on it’s way to the North Pole. After some initial unsure feelings, he eventually climbs aboard out of his curiosity. From then on, we are on this Christmas adventure about faith and believing. The central subject of this film is what makes it work, and it gets handled in a non preachy way. While it does have a more serious message at it’s core, there are also light hearted moments and some really fun/catchy musical numbers.
The characters are all really well constructed here, especially the main boy and the girl he meets once he boards the train. Those two together just work and they’re voiced well by the child actors. Tom Hanks is also really good as several different characters, but mainly the train conductor. The final character that I just love, for many reasons, is the poor boy. For starters he’s just so sweet and charming, but the main reason he’s a positive is because he represents a very real thing for so many kids. That is of course that children in lower economic classes don’t always get what they want for Christmas, and it was great to see that represented in a really beautiful way.
The music is pretty good, ranging from fun and catchy songs to slower, more serious ones. I like that there’s a balance, because with a story such as this, we need both the whimsical fun and the serious message at it’s core. Also, while talking about the music, Josh Groban’s end credits song must be talked about because it’s just so beautiful. This is one of the few films where I’ll watch the end credits, due to the music.
As far as negatives go, there aren’t a whole lot, but there are a couple things that just didn’t quite fit. When the train finally reaches the North Pole towards the end, we see Santa’s elves, and these elves are not cute or cheery. In fact, they come off as creepy and irritable. Maybe the elves were portrayed this way for some kind of comedy, but even if that’s why, it really didn’t work. I hated it because the rest of the film works well, and the elves are just kind of jarring when they come on screen. There’s also a pretty short scene in which the main character stays behind from the group he’s in and gets frightened by a puppet being controlled by another character and it all seems very out of place and like the elves, jarring. That’s all I have as far as downsides go, the rest is a very fun holiday film with a nice message.
The Polar Express has always been a favorite of mine due to it’s sheer festive energy that runs throughout. Yes, it does have a couple flaws, but thankfully they are far and few between and aren’t major things that are focused on. I definitely suggest it for your holiday viewing.