The Polar Express: a Christmas Classic or an Inadequate Holiday Film?

As the holiday season rears its festive head around this time a year, an avalanche of songs, ornaments, and pine-scented candles hit the stores. This market extravaganza also signals another holiday phenomenon; Christmas-themed movies. The jolly films, often over saturated with “holiday cheer”, jam viewer’s recording space and flood the Hallmark channel. One of these renowned, sugar-coated, overly sentimental movies that try to brainwash children about the morals of “Christmas joy” is “The Polar Express”. I’ll spare you the full synopsis of the movie; it’s probably one that’s already burned into your skull, allowing you to ominously utter the character’s dialogue along with the movie as if you took the time to make flashcards about the plot. I’m not trying to completely degrade this movie; like many others, I spent many childhood Christmas Eves falling asleep on the couch with one of the movie’s emotional songs blaring in the background. Although my intention isn’t to completely ridicule, you have to admit- no sane person can confidently say the movie doesn’t have obvious, slightly off-putting flaws. I’m not even going to address the obvious red flags; the midnight train that no one else can hear except for a skeptical little boy, the fact that the conductor allowed children to wander aimlessly around the roof of a moving train, or even the somewhat traumatizing ghost-man.

My primary concern is one that seems minuscule, but something that’s haunted me for years; why on earth do none of these characters have names? Did they not question each other regarding basic information? If I were beckoned by a bald dude to board a train headed for “Santa”, the first thing I would do is interrogate other captivities in the event that I have to inform the police regarding a kidnapping. While we are discussing the bald-headed conductor, another question comes to mind; what is this guy’s job for the rest of the year? Assuming he’s an American, I’d assume he’d have a taxes to cover, electric bills to pay, and a car to fund, just like the rest of us. Does he earn thousands of dollars on this one, special train ride, enough to cover all his mortgages? I’ve theorized that maybe, he hits kids with the realistic passenger fees after they’ve visited Santa, duping them into debt. I would think about two grand per kid, but I have yet to mathematically calculate the number of child passengers on the train times the money to assess an exact price. It’s a pretty luxury train, so the kids can’t expect all the perks for free, despite it being the “season of giving”.

One major perk of the “Polar Express” that confuses me more than any precalc problem ever could is the hot chocolate scene. Basically, servers come out of nowhere and theatrically serve mugs of the steaming chocolate beverage. And when I say “theatrically”, I mean they go all-out acrobatics, which includes doing flips and cartwheels on an accelerating train. Did the conductor scope outperformers in the Cirque du Soleil, dress them in waiter's outfits, and make them serve drinks to children? Is there a kitchen somewhere on the labyrinth of the train? Again, I really wish I had answers to these tantalizing questions. Despite the quizzical features of the festive movie, “The Polar Express” is a Hallmark channel favorite, debuting literally at least twice every six hours.

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