The story is weak, relying on incomprehensible plot points and a general lack of even the most simplistic logic. But never mind. It all takes place in Shining Time, a strange England-America hybrid (filmed on the Isle of Man), where the 18-inch tall Mr Conductor (Baldwin) tends to the train station and travels via a magic railroad to Sudor, where the talking trains live and work. The friendly steam engine Thomas (voiced by Glen) and his friends are being threatened by a playground bully-like diesel engine, just as Mr Conductor runs out of his magic gold dust, threatening the careful balance between the two worlds. The only hope is with a lost engine, Mr Conductor's wayward cousin (Rodgers), an old man (Fonda) and his precocious granddaughter (Wilson).
No, it doesn't make any sense. Which isn't to say it's unwatchable. But it's a close call. You know you're in trouble when Didi Conn (as the chirpy station manager) gives the film's most convincing performance! All of the acting is stilted and odd; the incessantly chattering Baldwin mugs shamelessly for the kiddies, while Fonda is blank and virtually comatose. Intriguing visual work is marred by some dodgy sets and the fact that the trains' lips don't move, even though their expressions change. Very strange. It also has a preachy, oversweet stream of moralising running through it that makes you feel quite queasy. Could have been worse I suppose. At least there are no Pokemons or (shudder) grinning purple dinosaurs around.
[U--mild suspense] 11.Jul.00
UK release 14.Jul.00
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