Luckily, for the sake of all parents with children who are required to pack the kiddies off to the movies every week during summer, most kid’s-flicks coming out of Hollywood these days are considerate enough to acknowledge the presence of the more sophisticated, wallet-toting faction and make movies at least palatable to adults. But every so often, a movie comes along that seems to have been made by an entire contingent of parent-hating producers, a group of filmmakers so demonic they spend all their time make the movie as non-sensical, not funny, and phenomenally unentertaining as possible to anyone over 5.
Thomas and the Magic Railroad is just such a movie. Centering on a famous blue train you have to know kids to know, Thomas and the Magic Railroad sets out to corner the two-to-six year old market and ignore everyone else. Thomas the Tank Engine was created in the 1940’s by one Reverend Wilbur Awdry, so you can imagine there aren’t going to be a lot of South Park-esque flatulence jokes or maturely sassy asides. The children’s book character turned TV star here makes his feature debut, which is about, well, what Thomas and the Magic Railroad is about is confusing to anyone who’s familiar with the word “plot.” Thomas and his homeys live on the Island of Sodor where trains talk, and it’s all magic and good times, except for the presence of some naughty diesel engines. Doesn’t the thought of diesel just give everyone chills already?
Somehow, one Mr. Conductor, played by Alec Baldwin (Outside Providence) who is clearly here making a movie to show off to his Basinger-progeny, is having an issue with some magic powder that takes him back and forth between “reality” and Train-orama-land. In the real world, where everyone acts really fake, a girl named Lily who is played by ex-talented child-actress turned odd-looking teen-actress Mara Wilson (Matilda), is off to visit her spaced out Grandpa, played by Peter Fonda (Ulee’s Gold), who has a femme-train engine stashed away that he likes to rub on with a rag. Between the two weird worlds, the higgledy-piggledy travel between them, everyone acting like escapees from a grade-school play, and a pacing that would seem fast to a crack-addict, Thomas and the Magic Railroad is one big mess.
All the while, the credo of Thomas is intermittently asserted for the wee-ones: “Even little engines can do big things.” Didn’t the Little Engine That Could already lead that whole movement? Writer, Director, and Producer Britt Allcroft should be run over by a fast-moving locomotive for making a movie so blatantly refusing to be anything any better than the least it could possibly be. Please, for the love of God, don’t let it be a franchise. Think of the parents.