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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 Susan Granger
1½ stars out of 4

For almost two decades, Britt Allcroft's imaginative Thomas the Tank Engine has intrigued youngsters on television and video - and now Thomas chugs off on a feature-film adventure. The plot is ridiculously complicated but, basically, Thomas and his friends on the magic railroad live on the Island of Sodor while humans live in a happy village called Shining Time. Using sparkling gold-dust that he sprinkles with his whistle, a miniature man known Mr. Conductor (Alex Baldwin) travels between the two worlds but he's losing his gold-dust supply. "My universe is in danger!" he wails, adding: "I think you're going to help me and Thomas sometime in the story." This sets up an inter-active premise with the audience that is never fulfilled as the live-action characters function in an animated world. Instead, we meet a somber, resourceful 12 year-old (Mara Wilson) who is going to visit her grumpy grandpa (Peter Fonda), who spends his days tinkering with Lady, an enchanted steam engine he's hidden in Muffle Mountain. Mr. Conductor needs to find the long-lost Lady in order to get more gold-dust. Meanwhile, there's a subplot involving the efforts of nasty Diesel to relegate Thomas and his shiny cohorts to the roundhouse, and Mara befriends a local lad (Cody McMains). Curiously, the trains speak with British accents while the Conductor's slacker cousin (Michael E. Rodgers) has a Scottish brogue and the other humans are distinctly American. Alec Baldwin smiles relentlessly, looking silly, while Peter Fonda seems befuddled. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" is a stiffly tedious, awkwardly fragmented 4. Pre-schoolers - two, three, four year-olds - may enjoy this fantasy about being "useful," but I suspect anyone older will be squirming. Wait for the video.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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