SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for "The Polar Express."
Don't get me wrong ― I adore "The Polar Express." I will never not watch it at Christmastime and sing along with every single song and fall in love again with that weird ghost guy who drinks the coffee he cleans his laundry in.
But it's a strange one.
And not a brilliant kind of strange either, but strange in a "this movie's logic is held together with popcorn garland" kind of way. I'm not saying it isn't worth watching ― it's just a little questionable.
First off, we need to talk about the plot.
Or, more specifically, how the plot happens. Seriously, most of this movie wouldn't exist if "Hero Boy" (because they couldn't be bothered to give him a name for some reason) had the slightest bit of common sense. Let's take a look at all of what happens after he loses Hero Girl's ticket while trying to return it to her, even though everything would have been fine if he'd just left it on her seat:
1. We watch the ticket come back to the train through a series of extremely unlikely events, including being upchucked by an eaglet.
2. Hero Boy climbs on top of the train to follow the conductor and Hero Girl and has a cup of laundry joe with homeless ghost Tom Hanks (as opposed to conductor Tom Hanks, Santa Claus Tom Hanks, Hero Boy's father Tom Hanks, or older Hero Boy Tom Hanks), who is honestly the only character I like in this movie.
3. Hero Boy and "the Hobo," as he's called, ski to the train's engine so that Hero Boy doesn't, like, literally die an awful death at Flattop Tunnel.
4. Hero Boy discovers that he almost died for no reason since Hero Girl is safe and driving the train. The two of them and the conductor then go to the front of train at the caribou crossing and for some reason stay there as the train starts moving again, even though they're almost at Glacier Gulch.
5. After the Glacier Gulch rollercoaster nightmare and driving over tracks that weren't built high enough to keep them from being frozen into a lake, Hero Girl finally gets the ticket back that she apparently didn't even need to stay on the train in the first place.
And then, of course, once they arrive at the North Pole, there's the whole sequence with the runaway train car after Hero Boy steps on a lever to get into it instead of, you know, the actual step.
I mean, I guess the movie needed run time, but having a story happen only because the main character isn't the sharpest tool in the shed doesn't make for a hugely compelling narrative.
And what's the deal with Santa in this movie?
Is nobody going to talk about the fact that Santa has ignored or forgotten sweet little Billy enough to make him say "Christmas just doesn't work out for me"? He isn't even sure of the kid's name when he meets him! Like, I know Santa's busy and everything, but come on, Mr. C., that's awful.
And as for the way this movie handles the whole "believe in Santa" thing...look, just so we're clear, you can be a generous and happy person without forcing yourself to think that flying reindeer exist, OK? Like, I'm not sure the film is aware of that.
You're not a better person for believing something that has no basis in reality. (Nor for getting on trains when you don't know where they're going, no matter what conductor Tom Hanks says.)
However, should there ever be a present for one of your kids under the Christmas tree that has a note in it signed by Santa Claus and contains a bell that your kids can hear but you can't, don't be the parents in this movie and just...not react to it. If that ever happens, sure, you can start believing in Santa again. But until then, this film is about as morally uplifting as a cup of hot chocolate.
Like I said, I love "The Polar Express," but don't think too hard about it.