The Polar Express Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Taking any book and making it into a movie can be a challenge. But choosing a classic children’s tale like The Polar Express is even trickier. This Caldecott Medal winner is a mere 32 pages, many of which are filled with more illustrations than text.
Nevertheless it seems to be a fitting undertaking for a duo no less notable than director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away) and actor Tom Hanks, a team that has obviously worked together before. Combining Zemeckis’ talent for special effect and Hanks’ vocal abilities (he voices six characters in this film), the production crew also employed a new animation technique called Performance Capture. This technology uses sensors attached to an actor’s frame to digitally capture body movement and facial expression and transfer them to the virtual character.
That, along with a budget of $170 million, has the story of an unnamed little boy building up steam.
The lad (Hanks) is at the juncture in life when it’s hard to believe in Santa. Lying perfectly still in his bed on Christmas Eve, he listens intently for the sound of sleigh bells. Instead, after falling asleep, he is awakened by the roar of a massive locomotive rumbling and grinding to a stop outside his window on the quiet suburb street.
Rushing out the door in only his pajamas and slippers, he is invited to board the train by a time-conscious conductor (Hanks) who keeps a close eye on his gold pocket watch. Once aboard, the young boy is greeted by a carload of similarly clad children. Chugging toward the North Pole, they too are in search of the jolly Elf.
However, the journey itself seems to be far more important than the final destination. Learning to believe in one’s self, others, or Old St. Nick are lessons each of the tiny travelers have to discover with the help of their fellow passengers and a stowaway hobo (Hanks) who rides on top of the train.
Fortunately for viewers, the backdrop for this schooling is as stunning as the storybook itself. The film captures the brilliant artwork of author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg who reportedly had reservations about turning The Polar Express into a theatrical production after an earlier movie version of his book Jumanji took on a decidedly different tone than the original narrative.
Like the picture book, this film is a time to suspend reality and get caught up in the moment. Other than some instances of peril, which may frighten very young audience members, this screenplay is free of the baggage found in many recent children’s films. There are no potty jokes or profanities, no belching or burping. Only moments of pure, roller coaster exhilaration as the passengers race over the tracks in search of Christmas magic… and the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells.
Starring Tom Hanks. Theatrical release November 9, 2004. Updated February 13, 2012
The Polar Express
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Polar Express rated G? The Polar Express is rated G by the MPAA
Other than some very mild peril of a fantasy nature, there is no content that will concern most viewers.
Page last updated February 13, 2012
More parents' guide for The Polar Express after the break...
The Polar Express Parents' Guide
What did the hero boy have to do in order to hear the sleigh bells? What did he discover about his parents?
What acts of compassion did the little girl show to the last boy who got on the train? In what ways is she a leader? What helped her to grow in confidence?
The conductor says, “Sometimes the most real things in this world are the things we can’t see.” What things do you believe in although you can’t see them? Can you still hear Santa’s bells?
The most recent home video release of The Polar Express movie is November 21, 2005. Here are some details…
DVD Release Date: 22 November 2005
Climb aboard The Polar Express in one of four DVD release choices: Single Disc Widescreen, Single Disc Full Screen, Two-Disc Widescreen, or Two-Disc Widescreen with Snow Globe and Toy Train. If you decide to gift wrap either of the 2 disc options, you will be treated to the following bonus features:
- 2 menu challenges that kids can play
- The never-before-heard Smokey and Steamer song
- Featurette: You Look Familiar: Hear about Tom Hanks’ 5 unique roles, how each character was different, and what it took for him to bring each one to life
- True Inspiration—An Author’s Adventure: Chris Van Allsburg discusses his artistic background and how he conceived the idea for The Polar Express book
- Josh Groban at the Greek performing the Academy Award nominated original song Believe. Also go behind-the-scenes!
- A Genuine Ticket to Ride: Behind-the-scenes secrets on Performance Capture, Virtual Cameras, Hair and Wardrobe, Creating the North Pole, and Music.
Both single and double disc editions offer the feature film in English (Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 5.1) and Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1). Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French.
Related home video titles:
After watching The Polar Express, it may be time to pull out some other Christmas favorites that have been around for a while. The original, animated version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Muppet Christmas Carol are two other films aimed at children. For the whole family, sit down with It’s a Wonderful Life, the classic holiday tale of a man who is beleaguered with problems and ready to give up.