Hollywood knows how to churn out holiday hits. Think Home Alone, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street -- the list goes on. But The Polar Express is an honest-to-God nightmare movie that still gives me goosebumps. Here's why:
My mother was very adamant when I was a child about riding anywhere with a stranger. It was the biggest no-no of all no-no's. But this kid just sees a train supposedly headed for the North Pole, run by an older man with a bristly mustache, and he doesn't question it in the slightest? This is how you end up on the back of a milk carton.
Once all the kids are on the train, the conductor (also played by Tom Hanks) summons a team of waiters to perform an insane tap dance and give the kids hot chocolate. It's a terrible song with like eight words total, and completely weird, even for this movie. At one point Conductor Tom Hanks yells out, "cho-co-late!!" in a jazzy voice, and for a moment, the world shed a single, unified tear. It's almost as if Castle Rock Entertainment felt compelled to pad out a 15-page children's book with a random musical number...
Let's suspend logic and assume the train is pure magic. Wouldn't it have GPS or some other navigation system that lets it know not to travel across a frozen lake? Does it not understand that traveling at high speeds on ice will cause the ice to crack? And how can Conductor Tom Hanks maintain his balance at such high speeds on this train traveling across a frozen lake? How is anyone still alive after this railway catastrophe?
At least the Hot Chocolate song has singing waiters. This is just a very boring duet with two of the dumb kids on the back of the train -- not wearing any kind of coats or hats or mittens, mind you, just in their pajamas in the hellish freeze of the North Pole -- singing about Christmas something or other. It's about as memorable as a second-rate public high school performance of Our Town.
We've already established that this kid doesn't understand he shouldn't talk to scary strangers, but talking to a Hobo (also played by Tom Hanks) on top of a train is a whole new level of stupid. And Hobo Tom Hanks says he's the owner of the train and the North Pole. But instead of running away immediately, the kid hangs out with this bindle-swinging bum and tells him he needs help finding a little girl. Great, now the kid's in danger, and the bum knows there's a little girl he can terrorize later. Great job, moron.
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