A month before The Polar Express opened, director Robert Zemeckis took a timeout from tweaking the sound mix at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch to talk to EW about the dark side of holiday entertainment. ''All the best Christmas songs are sad,'' he said. '''White Christmas,' 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,' 'I'll Be Home for Christmas.' It's a joyous holiday but carries all these feelings of longing. There's a reason the highest suicide rate is always during Christmas. I mean, that's kind of an interesting statistic.''
Turns out the not entirely cheery Polar Express is racking up some sad statistics of its own. Can the $165 million Warner Bros. movie, starring Tom Hanks in multiple roles, keep chugging along till the all-important week between Christmas and New Year's, when ticket sales typically skyrocket? That depends on how much audiences want to see (and resee) an agnostic 8-year-old wrestle with his doubts. According to Zemeckis, ''That's what the [story] is about a crisis of faith.'' Maybe off screen as well as on.