In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_hunting_ground

The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground could have been a series of disturbing statistics and personal stories, but the directors know that it is the survivors who are…

Thumb_maps_to_the_stars_ver8

Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg's film of Bruce Wagner's Hollywood satire-nightmare turns ludicrous situations into operatic tragedy.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Blog Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Thomas And The Magic Railroad

  |  

He is the character played by Peter Fonda, and he spends much of his time in a cave deep within Muffle Mountain with Lady, a tank engine he has been trying to repair for years, but without luck: "I've never been able to bring her to life,'' he complains. "To make her steam.'' Fonda is so depressed by this failure that he mopes through the entire role, stoop-shouldered, eyes downcast, step faltering, voice sad, as if he had taken the screenplay too literally ("Burnett is depressed because he cannot get Lady to run'') and did not realize that, hey, this is a kiddie movie.

Other actors are likewise adrift in the film. A few years ago, Alec Baldwin was delivering the electrifying monologue in  "Glengarry Glen Ross." Now he is Mr. Conductor, about 12 inches tall, materializing in a cloud of sparkle dust in a geranium basket. I do not blame him for taking a role in a children's movie, not even a role 12 inches high. I do question his judgment in getting into this one.

"Thomas and the Magic Railroad'' is an inept assembly of ill-matched plot points, meandering through a production that has attractive art direction (despite the immobile mouths). Many of the frames would make cheerful stills. Thomas and his fellow trains, even Evil Diesel, have kind of a jolly energy, and I like the landscapes and trees and hamlets.

But what a lugubrious plot. What endless trips back and forth between the Isle of Sodor and the full-sized town of Shining Time. What inexplicable characters, such as Billy Twofeathers (Russell Means), who appear and disappear senselessly. What a slow, wordy, earnest enterprise this is, when it should be quick and sprightly.

That "Thomas and the Magic Railroad'' made it into theaters at all is something of a mystery. This is a production with "straight to video'' written all over it. Kids who like the Thomas books might might kinda like it.

Especially younger kids. Real younger kids. Otherwise, no.

Perhaps the success of the Harry Potter books has inspired hope that Thomas, also a British children's icon, will do some business. Not a chance. In an age when even the cheapest Saturday morning cartoons find a way to make the lips move, what, oh, what, was the reasoning behind Thomas' painted-on grin? 

Popular Blog Posts

Notes on watching "Aliens" for the first time again, with a bunch of kids

Captain's log: eight fifth graders, one adult, one James Cameron movie.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Now, "Voyager": in praise of the Trekkiest "Trek" of all

As we mourn Abrams’ macho Star Trek obliteration, it’s a good time to revisit that most Star Trek-ian of accomplishme...

The Unloved, Part Fifteen: "The Lone Ranger" & "Heaven's Gate"

This month's Unloved looks at two films deemed disasters: Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" and Gore Verbinski's "The ...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus