"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
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
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
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