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Thomas and the Magic Railroad

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Thomas and the Magic Railroad

Starring: Alec Baldwin, Peter Fonda
Director: Britt Allcroft
Rated: G
RunTime: 89 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genres: Animation, Kids

*Also starring: Mara Wilson, Didi Conn, Russell Means, Michael E. Rodgers, Cody McMains, Edward Glen, Jared Wall, Laura Bower, Lori Hallier

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

"The magic is gone," the 6-inch tall Mr. Conductor (Alec Baldwin) says about his supply of gold dust, which has run out. And if the magic from the enchanting television series isn't totally absent in Britt Allcroft's movie version, THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD, it is too frequently AWOL.

When my son was little, his absolute favorite series was "Thomas the Tank Engine." He only tolerated "Shining Time Station," on which the Thomas episodes appeared, preferring instead to rent the videos, which eliminated the superfluous humans. He liked the series so much that at age 3, he started telling us to call him Thomas and even renamed us and our automobiles after other engines on the show.

In this movie version, the well-known actors in it try hard but just muck up the story. Baldwin is way too silly, Peter Fonda, as the widower grandpa, is too morose and the ever sweet Mara Wilson, as his granddaughter Lily, is underutilized.

Besides the missing gold dust, the plot also involves a lost engine named Lady.

If you're not familiar with the series, the model trains have faces on them and speak. In addition to Thomas ("the really useful engine"), each of the others (Gordon, Percy, Henry, etc) has a unique personality, and although they may bicker a lot, they are all good engines at heart, except for a mean one called Diesel. The series has simple 5-minute Thomas episodes, accompanied by the series' energetic little theme music.

The problem with the movie version, besides those pesky humans in it, is that the story doesn't go anywhere for quite a while, much like a short story that is stretched beyond its limits.

"What have you brought me here for?" Lily asks at one point. The audience may be asking the same question. Although it is a treat to see little Thomas on the big screen, the studio should have waited until they had a script with over an hour's worth of material in it.

THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD runs too long at 1:25. It is rated G and would be fine for all ages.

My son Jeffrey, age 11, gave his old friend's first movie a full ****. He liked the story, especially the part with the new engine named Lady.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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