Desperately trying to ride the coattails of pop phenomenon kiddie TV shows that have cashed in at the box office, "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" is an depressing failure.

Little more than a tediously protracted and befuddled episode of "Shining Time Station" -- the very, very low-rent Brit import program featuring a perky little steam engine with self-esteem issues and three facial expressions -- the whole movie rings with the resounding thud of a contrived effort that nobody put their hearts into.

The TV show is simplistic but earnest toddler fare featuring talking miniature trains with wildly rolling eyes on otherwise freeze-framed faces ("animated" by a few different inert expressions swapped on and off the engines' front ends from time to time). One might reasonably expect a feature film version to at least offer a little real animation to give the trains some big-screen personality and distinguish it from the shoestring show. But instead "Thomas" stuck to its paltry production values and minimal storylines, using what budget it had to lure lead actors with faded marquee power.

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