The Polar Express (2004) Movie Review: One for the Kids

Syn­op­sis: A lit­tle boy embarks on a jour­ney on a train called The Polar Express on Christ­mas Eve in an effort to redis­cover his Christ­mas Spirit while hav­ing the adven­ture of a lifetime.

This movie opens with a lit­tle boy who lay qui­etly lis­ten­ing for “a sound he was afraid he’d never hear: the ring­ing bells of Santa’s Sleigh”. How­ever, his par­ents note that he used to stay up all night wait­ing for Santa, but it doesn’t appear that he does it any­more, sym­bol­iz­ing a loss of belief in Mr. Claus. Then sud­denly, a train appears and a con­duc­tor invites him to board it to visit the North Pole. Despite his ini­tial reluc­tance to go, it turns out he’s a cru­cial part in the events that hap­pen that night on the jour­ney to the north pole, none more impor­tant than ensur­ing that Lonely Boy Billy gets on the train, and help­ing them solve var­i­ous issues that they have on the way to the North Pole.

“One thing about trains, it doesn’t’ mat­ter where you’re going, what mat­ters is decid­ing to get on” – The Polar Express Conductor

Once on the train, the lit­tle boy meets other kids and forms a bond with a lit­tle girl, an annoy­ing knows it all boy and with Billy. Even­tu­ally, they all see the work­ings of Santa’s elves and his work­shop. When the rein­deers appear to all the kids on the North Pole, every­one can hear the sleigh bells except the lit­tle boy. Then, when Santa makes an appear­ance, every­one can see Santa except him. The lit­tle boy then dis­cov­ers the issue: he doesn’t believe. So, he mut­ters over and over to him­self while hold­ing one of the sleigh bells:

“I believe; I believe”

As a result of this expres­sion of belief, he sees Santa for him­self and is awarded a spe­cial present: the first gift of Christ­mas which he chooses to be the sil­ver sleigh bell that helped him dis­cover his Christ­mas spirit. When it is time for the kids to board The Polar Express again to go home, each of the 4 main chil­dren of the movie receive their orig­i­nal ticket stubs with a spe­cial message/​lesson for each of them:

  • Lit­tle Girl – Lead. She was the true leader on The Polar Express, often try­ing to instill hope when oth­ers had none.
  • Lonely Boy Billy - Depend on, Count on, Rely on. The audi­ence isn’t privy to Billy’s cir­cum­stances, although he does express in the movie Christ­mas doesn’t work out for him. He seems to be very down dur­ing the hol­i­days and this mes­sage could have been com­mu­ni­cated to him to encour­age him to depend on, rely on and count on oth­ers. It is evi­dent that he imme­di­ately takes it to heart as he then refers to the Lit­tle Girl and Boy as his friends for the first time in the movie.
  • Annoy­ing Know It All Boy – Learn. Santa even told him he needs to learn humil­ity, but the wider mes­sage is that he needs to learn. Period.
  • Lit­tle Boy – Believe. His ticket stub made appar­ent what was hinted at through­out the movie – he just needs to believe. This is a mes­sage that stayed with him through­out his life.

All in all, the movie shows that the jour­ney on The Polar Express was not only about the Spirit of Christ­mas as I had orig­i­nally thought. It became evi­dent dur­ing the ride that the only per­son that truly did not have the spirit was the Lit­tle Boy. So it made me think. Why did these other chil­dren have to embark on this jour­ney on The Polar Express? The scene with the ticket stubs made it clear: they all had to learn impor­tant life lessons that went beyond Christmas.

At the end of the movie, the boy noted that his friends could hear the sleigh bell ini­tially (gifted to him by Santa Claus on Christ­mas) but as time passed the sound faded for them. This rep­re­sents the fact that they either lost their belief, or their Christ­mas spirit or both, as the bell only sounds for those who truly believe. The boy notes that for him, the sound never faded, which shows that the life les­son he learnt on The Polar Express truly stayed with him through­out his life.

“The won­der of life never fades for those who truly believe” – IMBD​.com, The Polar Express

To con­clude, this movie is a good watch for those chil­dren who for some rea­son do not have the Christ­mas spirit. While it does have a few lessons here and there for adults, the movie pri­mar­ily illus­trates key lessons to chil­dren about Christ­mas and life as a whole. Movie Rat­ing 710

© Photo 1 taken from Athenacin​ema​.com
© Arti­cle of caribbe​an​dreams​magazine​.com

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