3 STARS - Heartwarming
To have the faith of a little child is a divine gift for which we all long in our hearts. To be a child who has lost his faith is a painful sorrow. This Christmas, a trip on the “Polar Express” is an opportunity for children and adults alike to learn what it means to believe, to have faith restored, redeemed, and transformed.
While the children’s story of “The Polar Express” may be about restoring a child’s belief in Santa Claus, the underlying message is one of every child’s desire to be loved and cared for by something greater than ourselves. The film is a wonderful holiday experience that takes us on a magic train ride to the North Pole, and the only people allowed on the railroad are kids who are given an extraordinary gift available only to those who believe.
If you are lucky enough to see this film at an IMAX theater in 3-D, you will be engulfed in the magic and participate in the ride with snow falling all around you. The conductor on the Polar Express is played by Tom Hanks (who also plays a variety of parts, including Santa Claus). This blending of animation and real action by an actor who is then digitized for the film is a quantum leap forward in computer-generated technology.
The Polar Express appears to each child who is struggling with their belief in the form of a dream. Like most of us, when confronted with a challenge of faith, the answers rarely come as intellectually objective answers. We usually have to experience the transformation of a relationship to understand what is happening to us. We see things happen in retrospect, only knowing that something good has happened after the fact.
The story focuses on one doubting boy who is wondering on Christmas Eve if there really is a Santa Claus. Suddenly, like magic, the sights and sounds of a mighty steam engine overwhelm him and a train stops in front of his house. A conductor steps down and invites him aboard. Initially, he hesitates, and the moment of opportunity is almost lost as the train departs. But, like all children, he longs to be on board, and a second chance is offered by the conductor.
Once on board, the experience of challenge, and ultimately joy, with thousands of others joining in an intricate choreography of singing and dancing would awaken any kid’s heart. Each of the children on the train are ultimately given a unique gift of redemption and hope, realizing that Santa cares uniquely for them in the midst of tens of thousands of children in the world.
While much of the trip takes place on the train, the arrival at the North Pole is a visual treat. Here the children almost lose their bearings, but ultimately they come face to face with the real Saint Nicholas.
The tale of the “Polar Express” is a fun-filled story for children. Like all great morality plays, though, it has a message of hope for every generation.
- As Tom Hanks represents the father, boy, conductor, hobo, and Santa, Robert Zemeckis creates a character who expresses those parts in all of us. How would you describe the various “characters” of your own life? What part of you wants to believe but finds it difficult? What part of you believes and helps others believe? What part of you reaches out and protects others on their faith journey?
- The identifying of the “charisma gifts” of each of the children on the train is not complete until the journey is ended. Do you find this to be true in your life as well? Is it only after you find yourself in various situations that you realize what your capabilities and gifts are?
- The power of belief is something that must be unlocked if we are to move from the limitations of a materialistic view of the world to one of a larger, spiritual view. Do you find it difficult to move beyond the “seeing is believing” limitations to the “believing is seeing” experiences? Why or why not?
- Do you agree with the conductor when he says, “It doesn’t matter where the train is going, it just matters whether you get on board!” Do all beliefs take us to the same place?