[Screen It]


(2004) (voices of Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara) (G)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
None None Minor *Moderate None
Mild Minor Moderate None None
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None None Minor Mild Minor

Drama/Fantasy: A young boy who's begun to question the existence of Santa Claus accepts a ride on a magical train that's taking other skeptical kids to the North Pole for proof.
It's Christmas Eve and Hero Boy (voice of DARYL SABARA) can't get to sleep. At the age when kids start to question the existence of Santa, he's uncertain but still hopes that the gift-giver is real. Thus, with every noise in the house late at night, he thinks it might be him, but is disappointed when it isn't.

The next noise he hears, however, is unmistakable. It's a huge locomotive and its accompanying train that has stopped right in front of his house. And its Conductor (voice of TOM HANKS) wants him to come along for a ride on the Polar Express that's headed for the North Pole. Hero Boy is initially reluctant, but when the train starts to pull away, he races for and boards the Express.

There, he meets other kids, such as the confident Hero Girl (voice of NONA GAYE) and the nerdy Know-It-All (voice of EDDIE DEEZEN), who are there for the same reason. Along the way, they pick up Billy (voice of JIMMY BENNETT), a lonely kid from the wrong side of the tracks who claims that Christmas has long since passed him by.

Hero Boy and the other kids then have encounters with various individuals onboard -- such as a mysterious Hobo (voice of TOM HANKS) who rides atop the moving train, and train workers Smokey and Steamer (voice of ANDRE SOGLIUZZO) -- as well as several perilous adventures. As the train makes its way north, the kids can't begin to imagine what they'll see when they eventually arrive and then set out to meet Santa Claus (voice of TOM HANKS).

It's a good bet many will, particularly if they like the short story upon which this film is based.
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
  • HERO BOY is the young boy who's at the age where he isn't sure if Santa exists or not and thus takes a trip on the Polar Express to find out.
  • THE CONDUCTOR is the train employee who convinces the kids to come along for the ride and then tries to keep them and the trip in order.
  • HERO GIRL is the young girl who befriends Hero Boy and shows her confidence through various adventures.
  • KNOW-IT-ALL is the nerdy and somewhat obnoxious kid who lives up to his name.
  • BILLY is the young and lonely boy from the wrong side of the tracks who long ago lost his belief in Santa or Christmas, but nevertheless accompanies the other kids on their trek.
  • THE HOBO is a ghostly apparition who rides the top of the train and somewhat serves as both sides of Hero Boy's conscience.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this dramatic fantasy that's been rated G. Despite that rating, there are a number of scenes that could be unsettling, suspenseful or even scary to very young kids, including some action/adventure based close calls and perilous moments, a scene featuring some creepy looking marionettes (one of which briefly comes "alive") and one character noted as being a ghost (although not in a traditionally scary fashion). A few repeatable phrases are present and some kids may get the idea to try to ride atop a moving train as occurs here.

    An unhappy home life is suggested for one boy, while parents may want to consider the film's overall "Is Santa real or not?" theme. Beyond that, the film's remaining categories have little or nothing in the way of objectionable content. That said, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

  • None.
  • None.
  • A hobo rides atop the train for a free ride, but appears to be an apparition of some sort.
  • Scenes listed below may be unsettling, suspenseful or scary to younger viewers, but older ones will likely have little if any such problems with the same material.
  • When the boy's room startles rattling and rumbling at night, some younger kids might find that a tiny bit scary (not knowing what it is) until we see that it's the train that's pulled up in front of the house.
  • Billy tries to run and get on the train, but falls in the snow (some younger kids may worry about him not getting on).
  • We see Hero Boy's point of view of looking down at the gap between train cars as the track zips by below him.
  • Know-It-All states that the conductor is going to throw Hero Girl off the back of the train for not having a ticket. Hero Boy then races to stop that from occurring, but gets to the back of the train and can't find them. He then climbs up onto the snow-covered top of the train (that's flying down the track) and sees the Conductor and girl disappearing into the snowy and dark distance.
  • A hobo (who rides atop the fast-moving train) asks Hero Boy if he believes in ghosts. The boy says he doesn't, the hobo replies, "Interesting" and we later see evidence that he is some sort of magical spirit (he disappears into thin air several times).
  • A hobo tells Hero Boy (as both share a single set of skis on top of the train) that Flattop Tunnel is approaching and only has one inch of clearance at the top. The two initially end up at the back of the train where Hero Boy nearly falls off (he dangles from the side and then holds onto the hobo's ski pole before being brought back up). The two then race toward the front of the train (as it plummets down a very steep track), with Hero Boy jumping at the last second into the safety of the coal car (the Hobo vanishes into thin air) before it enters the tunnel.
  • Smokey and Steamer try to replace the light on the front of the train as it races down a steep hill, with one nearly falling and only holding onto the other's beard.
  • Smokey and Steamer see something way down the way that's blocking the track. They yell for Hero Boy and Hero Girl to stop the train (and they just manage to do so before the train comes upon a large herd of caribou).
  • The pin falls out of the throttle control, making the train increase in speed (with the conductor and two main kids riding on the front of the locomotive). The conductor then tells the kids to hold on as they're about to descend the steepest downhill grade. They then do so as we see a roller coaster type point of view of the fast, downhill ride.
  • The group then sees that ice from a lake has covered the tracks and the train slides out across the frozen lake, swerving back and forth. When they see that a small crack has grown into an immense one that's racing their way, they get the train going again and try to reach the other side of the frozen lake as the crack "chases" after and nearly swallows them (they just barely make it). During that Hero Girl nearly falls off the side, with the conductor grabbing her, Hero Boy grabbing him and the hobo grabbing Hero Boy to keep all of them from falling off.
  • Hero Boy nearly falls off the train with the conductor grabbing him just in time.
  • Hero Boy finds himself alone in a somewhat dimly lit train car filled with old toys, including some hanging marionettes that might be a little frightening to younger kids. That's especially true when one suddenly reaches out and grabs the kid and starts talking to him. He sees that it's the hobo controlling the puppet from above, but is still scared and quickly runs out as the hanging marionettes are all around him.
  • Hero Boy accidentally kicks a train car's release lever, causing a lone car to slowly start to roll backwards. It then picks up a lot of speed as it zips down a very steep and curvy incline before coming to an abrupt stop at the end of the track.
  • Hero Boy, Hero Girl and Billy slowly and tentatively walk across a very narrow train bridge high above the ground, with Billy nearly slipping off the track at one point.
  • Hero Boy, Hero Girl and Billy zip down a slide that ends in a huge funnel, dropping them out below it. It initially appears they're going to fall a long distance, but they land on the top of a huge pile of gifts. Moments later, however, Billy looks concerned and states that something has his legs. Hero Boy and Hero Girl try to pull him out of the packages and eventually do, only to realize that it was Know-It-All who had him by the feet (with no ill intent).
  • A huge decorative star falls from the top of an enormous Christmas tree and careens toward the street and the many elves on it. Other elves bungee jump down and grab the star just in time (as its point comes within inches of one elf who's cowering on the street below it).
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Who in the blazes?" "You tenderfoot," "We are in some serious jelly" (meaning "in a jam"), "What in the name of Mike?" "Get us the blazes out of here" and "Are they mashugana?"
  • Needing to clear the tracks of a huge herd of caribou, the conductor repeatedly pulls on another train worker's long beard, making him let out a series of yelps that make the animals walk away.
  • Some impressionable kids might get the idea of riding atop the moving train as several characters do here.
  • The sound of some large cables suddenly being fired up into the air might startle a few younger viewers.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful and ominous music plays in certain scenes in the film.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Billy states that Christmas has never worked out for him (somewhat implying a less than happy family life, but that's never explored).
  • Whether Santa Claus exists (for young kids who may have their doubts) and how this film addresses that (the kids on the train have their doubts).
  • When Hero Boy tells a hobo that he's looking for a girl (meaning Hero Girl), the hobo laughs and says, "Aren't we all?"
  • The notion that seeing is believing.
  • A hobo (who rides atop the fast-moving train) asks Hero Boy if he believes in ghosts. The boy says he doesn't, the hobo replies, "Interesting" and we later see evidence that he is some sort of magical spirit (he disappears into thin air several times).
  • The comment that sometimes the most real things are that which we cannot see.
  • Billy states that Christmas has never worked out for him (somewhat implying a less than happy family life, but that's never explored).
  • The comment that as far as the train is concerned, it doesn't matter where you're going. What matters is deciding to get on.
  • The Christmas spirit.
  • The real meaning of Christmas.
  • When Hero Boy pulls the emergency stop, the train suddenly stops and various kids fall to the floor quite hard (but are okay).
  • Needing to clear the tracks of a huge herd of caribou, the conductor repeatedly pulls on another train worker's long beard, making him let out a series of yelps that make the animals walk away.

  • Reviewed October 30, 2004 / Posted November 10, 2004

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [7500] [Artemis Fowl] [Da 5 Bloods] [The King of Staten Island] [Miss Juneteenth] [Mr. Jones] [Selfie Dad] [You Should Have Left]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2020 Screen It, Inc.