A painfully simple tale about a little toy steam engine that could, Thomas and the Magic Railroad is aimed at the most impressionable of the traveling public. It will bore silly anyone above the age of 5.
Despite the presence of Baldwin (who's hyper) and Fonda (who's very much not), the movie's real star is Thomas, the spunky blue steam engine already familiar to the target audience via TV's Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and Shining Time Station. In his film debut, Thomas shows a bullying diesel engine who's boss, helps locate a missing steam locomotive and aids Mr. Conductor (Baldwin) in regaining his "sparkle" (the toddler equivalent of Austin Powers recovering his mojo).
After the dazzling animation displayed this summer in Dinosaur and Chicken Run, Thomas's simplistic technique—a tiny toy train, with movable eyes, zipping along a track—seems rudimentary stuff. (G)