In The 1940’s Thomas The Tank Engine made his debut in a series of children’s books titled, “The Railroad Series” created by English author Wilbert Vere Awdry. The books centers around the title character, his pals including Percy, James, Gordon, Edward, Toby among many other engines work for their boss Mr. Sir Topham Hat doing chores to help coordinate his railroad business. Some of the stories teaches young readers moral lessons. The books became a huge success spawning a television series since 1984. To this day. It’s still ongoing. The show is heavily based on the books. One notable trait is The Narrator voiced by Ringo Starr, (the drummer from The Beatles) Alec Baldwin & the late George Carlin.
Like the books, the show was a success among young viewers and families. Over the years, Thomas The Tank Engine became a national phenomenon spawning play school merchandise such as toys, clothes, posters, decorations among many other items. In addition to merchandise, it also spawned an a live action series titled, “Shining Time Station” with George Carlin portraying Mr. Conductor in the flesh as a tiny man who tells the stories about Thomas and his buddies located from his home known as “Sodor.” Shining Time Station aired on PBS from 1989-1993. The latter year is my actual birth year.
The first time I was introduced to Thomas The Tank Engine, is when I watched reruns of Shining Time Station at an early age alongside VHS tapes of Thomas The Tank Engine. On my 7th birthday, my parents took me to see a movie based on the show called, “Thomas And The Magic Railroad” as a birthday present.
Thomas And The Magic Railroad was released in 2000. (same year Unbreakable came out) It was critically panned by many critics, especially Roger Ebert. To put salt in the wound, the movie was also a commercial failure.
The following review contains gigantic SPOILERS. If you’ve never seen this movie or not familiar with Thomas The Tank Engine, you’ve been warned! Does the movie still hold up since I was a little kid? Let’s find out shall we?
Fast & Slow Aspects
Fast: The only good part is Mr. Conductor’s line, “Sparkle Sparkle Sparkle.” Nostalgia Critic made fun of it from his review of Thomas And The Magic Railroad.
I’m not gonna lie, the Native American from “Natural Born Killers” makes an appearance. No wonder this movie was on drugs.
Slow: Shining Time’s theme song doesn’t feel whimsical. It belongs in any commercial involving family vacation.
The title character never appeared that much. Why is he on the poster? What if Luke Skywalker never made prominent screen-time from all three original “Star Wars” films?
The late Peter Fonda’s performance as Burnett Stone acted way too depressed over a train. All he does is mope throughout the film until Lady The Train comes to life. Raven from “Teen Titans” showed some emotional range. I don’t mean no disrespect to Peter, (god bless his soul) he needs to smoke some grass as in his role as The Truth from “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”
Mr. Conductor eats a carrot as a clue. As he eats, he spouts random words. Is it me or does that carrot contain a buttload of coke? Not the kind you drink, the kind a dopehead snorts. Why do I get the feeling Thomas The Tank Engine has a sinister secret involving a drug plantation? Remember folks, snorting cocaine is bad. In the words of Dave Chappelle: “Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.” Seriously kids, don’t do drugs.
Conductor calls his nephew via flower. Seriously? Who wrote the script, Cheech & Chong?!
Every single tank never move their mouths or made facial expressions.
Alec Baldwin’s performance as Mr. Conductor seemed like he was on drugs. Rambling at a baseball bat in his pajamas.
Thomas And The Magic Railroad wasted a golden opportunity to bring George Carlin back as Mr. Conductor in the flesh! GOSH DARN IT! He would’ve been the saving grace worth the price of admission! I’m Doubling Down Points for the movie failing to recruit George!
Why do a few characters claim Lady The Train is beautiful. She’s literally a train, not a hottie like Natalie Portman. I’d rather watch her “dance scenes” from “Closer.” At least Nat is yummier than an inanimate object. Some of the human characters need to go out with an actual human being.
The Special Effects are obviously fake next to The Phantom Menace’s dated Computer Animation.
The Stop-Motion Animation mixed with live action didn’t seem quite right.
Mara Wilson & Peter Fonda playing a granddaughter & grandfather felt completely pointless. They never bonded.
After Mr. Conductor lands safely near a windmill. He tells the audience they were the people who rescued him. How the actual fudge nugget did the audience in their seats managed to save Conductor? Doesn’t make any friggin sense. This ain’t “Dora The Explorer.” She’s known to encourage “viewers” to participate in her adventures. In reality, nothing happened. It nothing, but padding. Was Alec Baldwin losing his cool on and offset? No wonder he called his daughter a pig. Don’t believe me, he acted like an assface towards Ireland.
The movie is inconsistent. For example, Thomas enters a random portal. There’s no explanation why he just somehow entered a portal. When Burnett finally starts Lady’s engine, they both enter a portal to transport both of them to Sodor. Moments Later, Thomas immediately shows up. After that, he never mentioned his encounter with a random portal ever again. EGADS! This is a pointless plot device too convoluted than HBO’s “Westworld.” At least The Nolan Brothers, Emma Thomas & Lisa Joy managed to tell a cohesive narrative.
The movie is nonsensical if Mr. Conductor & Junior don’t acquire gold dust in time, they’ll die. It’s never explained why they need gold dust to keep themselves alive.
I believe this film killed Mara Wilson’s acting career. Somewhere in an alternate timeline, her career bounced back and never went M.I.A.
The Final Verdict: F, FOR FAKER!
Thomas And The Magic Railroad is describe in three words: “One Big Fart.” As a little kid, I adored Thomas The Tank Engine along with the film. Now that I’m older, I realize how idiotic this film is the equivalent of uncontrollable excessive flatulence. Doesn’t hold up. If I were you, do not waste your spare time watching this clunker. If you want to spend time wind your kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces or godchildren, I strongly recommend watching the show with George Carlin narrating.
It’s a shame that Mara Wilson is no longer into films due to her last movie as the final nail in the coffin destroying her future in acting. Look at the bright side, she published a book titled, “Where Am I Now?: True Stories Of Girlhood And Accidental Fame.” At least Alec Baldwin survived this film and “The Cat In The Hat.”