The Polar Express (2004) – 4/5

The Polar Express (2004)

I didn’t expect to like this movie too much. I didn’t hear too many good things about it and given the animation and Tom Hanks, I felt I sd have been hearing a lot more.

I do love how they take advantage of the animation w/ the “camera” angles and light and perspectives. It’s really fun what they were able to do and did do.

So maybe low expectations helped. I’m still not sure it’s a 4/5, but…


The basis of the story is that the (possibly) imaginary Polar Express is taking children who seemingly have lost belief in Santa (or maybe other reasons) to the North Pole.

The three main child characters all seem to learn/gain something in the journey. The girl learns to believe in her confidence (LEAD), the shy kid learns that not everything turns out bad when you open up (and gain friends) (DEPEND ON, RELY ON, COUNT ON) and the main kid learns to believe (BELIEVE). There’s a ‘know it all kid’ too (LEARN), but I don’t consider him a main character.

The conductor is their guide and there’s a hobo which is a confusing character b/c he seems rather harsh. He seems to help mostly, but I’m not really sure of his role.

From what I read, the story is greatly expanded over the book which probably explains some of the various scenes that seem to be fantastical and unsure about their place in the movie (e.g., the lost ticket – great, but…???). There’s also a few scenes of everything moving really fast, out of control, falling down (e.g., the train and the present funnel). I’m not sure of the purpose, but the scenes are pretty fun.

The hobo’s big line is “seeing is believing” which makes me think it’s the counter to the conductor or Santa in the regard that it’s mostly a matter of belief. As the conductor says: “Seeing Santa is not required.” and “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

I also have a little problem w/ the ending. The robe tells us it was just a dream. The bell tells us it must have been real. It’s unfortunate b/c ultimately his simple belief is in question b/c he has physical proof.

Maybe they sd have ended it w/ a series of shots of him hearing the bell throughout his life (continued belief) and late in life receiving the bell (proof it was real).

But since it’s a kids movie, I guess I’m being too harsh on that point. I’m sure kids go nuts when he opens the box w/ the bell in it. IT’S REAL!!! I wonder if that’s in the book???

Haiku Summary
Boy doubts Santa. Train
takes him to North Pole, Santa.
Bell tells us it’s real.

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