Any Tom Hanks movie is guaranteed to be a classic. But the Hanks-fronted 2004 holiday flick The Polar Express really does push the limit. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s picture book of the same name, the film follows a young boy who takes a trip to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to see Santa Claus. Hijinks ensue, along with a larger message about youthful open-heartedness and redemption wrapped up in a slight, subtle Christian allegory.
The Polar Express takes some liberties from its source material, introducing a larger cast of characters and a whole assortment of comedy routines and action-packed sequences never seen in the mid-’80s book, including a Hanks-led number on serving hot chocolate. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Polar Express stars anyone other than Hanks: The Hollywood A-list actor plays the main character’s father, the narrator, the Conductor, a hobo, a puppet, and Santa Claus himself.
All this didn’t necessarily help the holiday flick save face among critics, as the film sits at a less-than-stellar 56 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Nonetheless, FlixPatrol reports that The Polar Express is leading HBO Max’s U.S. top 10 movies list, reaching eighth place on the streaming service yesterday. If you can stomach the mid-2000s CGI and the slight cheese factor padding the movie’s script, there are a few gems in the rough, such as Tom Hanks confronting thousands of caribou on the way to the North Pole.
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In the meantime, The Polar Express has some tight competition for this week’s top Christmas movie. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is HBO Max’s second most popular Christmas film this week, bested only by Will Ferrell’s iconic comedy Elf. But if you’re dying for a little more Hanks in your pre-Thanksgiving holiday lead-up, you can catch The Polar Express on HBO Max now if you’re in the U.S.