Thomas and the Magic Railroad Movie Review

Bullies suck. "Being useful" is good. Magic is cool. You just can't argue with these irrefutable facts in the world of Thomas and the Magic Railroad, a preschool adventure based on the successful television series about the little tank engine that could. The lessons may be admirable, but creator/director/writer Britt Allcroft has created a scattered children's tale that looks good, but feels messy.

She has done some things right: she's cast big stars, like Alec Baldwin as the Lilliputian Mr. Conductor, and Peter Fonda as the sad grandpa, Burnett Stone; her production designers have continued the show's happy train colors, with bright blues and reds, and have added bonus design touches to the live sets and wardrobe; her script applauds positive thinking, creativity, and foiling the bad guy. It's just that all of this is mired in a clunky set of hole-filled plots, confusing enough to make me want to interrogate the little guy sitting in front of me.

The story doesn't really revolve around one particular character or plotline, but the simple gist is that young Thomas and the other shiny steam engines are being pushed around by a mean, yucky diesel with a scary set of pinchers. At the same time, Mr. Conductor, played with a childlike earnestness by Baldwin, has run out of magic gold dust, and thus may be stuck on the wonderful island of Sodor, never to return to the train station at Shining Time. Meanwhile, Burnett lives in a kind of tunnel/cave, lamenting his inability to revive the beautiful steam engine Lady, with Fonda playing Burnett like a mopy actor waiting for the next Ulee's Gold.

Anyway, he's visited by his granddaughter from the big city, who gets her own dose of gold dust, allowing her to shrink and ride the "magic railroad" (Hello Alice!), joining the effort with Mr. Conductor and the cute talking trains. How do these kids follow all this?!

After a while, the film, with its awkward order of scenes, doesn't live up to the promise of the sweet idyllic feel of the introduction, and is a bit boring. It's dragged down further by generally flat acting. Mara Wilson, the cute kid from Mrs. Doubtfire, is now a cute adolescent as the granddaughter, but can't act a lick. Her young friend, played by Cody McMains, is worse, and the stiff dialogue doesn't help matters. And Fonda's sleepwalking sealed it for me that I wasn't the only unexcited one.

I picture this film existing years from now on cable, where college kids will turn the stilted lines and occasional psychedelic trips and colors into some kind of drinking or smoking game. When one particular train rides triumphantly through a magic palette of wispy, primary colors, look out! It'll be like the original Fantasia's 1963 re-release, but for a new generation of stoners. For now, though, I think the little kids dig it for what it is.

After the movie, I spoke with a 5-year old, a 3-year old, and their moms. I learned that the 3-year old was the one leading the cheering section in the theater, and the 5-year old said the movie was "awesome". What the hell do I know?

Scared yet?


Comments

Thomas and the Magic Railroad Rating

" Weak "

Rating: G, 2000

Editors Recommendations

Is The Cannes Palme d'Or Heading David Cronenberg’s Way for 'Map to the Stars'?

The Cannes Film festival is sneaking up fast. The Oscars felt like they were 8 minutes ago...

Is The Cannes Palme d'Or Heading David Cronenberg’s Way for 'Map to the Stars'?

CounterPoint Festival 2014 To Feature Hometown Return of Outkast

Next weekend's CounterPoint Festival will be the event's first year at a new 5000-acre site, featuring...

CounterPoint Festival 2014 To Feature Hometown Return of Outkast

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' - Not Perfect, But Really, Really Fun

Superhero movies have been striving towards the almost unobtainable goal set...

'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' - Not Perfect, But Really, Really Fun

Ricky Gervais is "Hooked" on David Brent Again - Former Paper Merchant To Return

A return for David Brent has been mooted ever since the character was wheeled...

Ricky Gervais is

This Labor Day, Jay Z Is Bringing "Made In America" To Downtown Los Angeles

Jay Z and the Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti have announced that the rapper’s...

This Labor Day, Jay Z Is Bringing

Anna Wintour wants 'more exclusive' Met Ball 2014

The editor-in-chief of US VOGUE magazine is reportedly determined for the annual...

Anna Wintour - Anna Wintour wants 'more exclusive' Met Ball 2014

'Mrs Doubtfire' Sequel Will Be Made 21 Years After The Original

The comedy classic 'Mrs. Doubtfire' is reportedly set to return to the big-screen...

'Mrs Doubtfire' Sequel Will Be Made 21 Years After The Original

'Of Mice And Men' Brings Out Broadway Talents Of James Franco, Chris O'Dowd

Of Mice And Men premiered on Broadway last night, giving critics a chance to cast...

'Of Mice And Men' Brings Out Broadway Talents Of James Franco, Chris O'Dowd

Sofia Vergara On Her Menage a Trois in Woody Allen's 'Fading Gigolo'

Sofia Vergara has been speaking about her nerves at shooting a ménage a trois with...

Sofia Vergara On Her Menage a Trois in Woody Allen's 'Fading Gigolo'


More recommendations