The Little Engine That Could

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Little Engine That Could Movie Poster Image
Young train fans will enjoy this message-filled ride.
  • G
  • 2011
  • 82 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids learn the importance of believing in yourself and trying your hardest to accomplish something.

Positive Messages

"If you think you can, you will; if you think you can't, you won't." If you truly believe in yourself, you can accomplish almost anything.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Little Engine is a great role model for kids because she's small but hard-working and willing to make her and Richard's dreams come true. She overcomes the odds to climb Dream Mountain. Richard also shows that even kids who are bullied can be heroes.

Violence & Scariness

Boys bully Richard, throw snowballs at him, and steal his grandpa's pocket watch. A creepy Nightmare Train deceives the Little Engine and threatens to keep Richard and the circus toys trapped in Dreamland.

Sexy Stuff
Language

Some mild insults like "creepy," "scrawny little shunter," "little," "failure," "annoying," and the like.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this straight-to-DVD animated adventure is fine for even preschool-aged kids, especially those who love trains. There only potentially upsetting moments are a brief scene when a couple of bullies throw a snowball at a boy and then steal his grandfather's beloved pocket watch, and when a somewhat frightening Nightmare Train threatens Little Engine and her haul. The language includes mild insults like "annoying," "creepy," and "failure," but the message is a classic that all children should be exposed to: If you "think you can" hard enough, you can do anything, even if it seems impossible.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2, 3, and 6 year old Written bylkbt March 26, 2011

Way too scary!

This movie was way to scary for my kids (4 and 6). We couldn't make it through the whole movie. My 4 year old stopped watching after the train almost fel... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 year old Written byRennyMom April 2, 2011
We put this movie on for a group of kids (ages 3.5 to 8) and every one of them was scared. I can't believe it is rated acceptable for ages 4, my son (3 and... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTacoshrimp00 February 21, 2018

Teaches about courage

There are brave moments when they come across a broken bridge and replace a rail with a pipe and risk their lives to go across. The Characters problem solve in... Continue reading
Kid, 2 years old September 1, 2011

Kinda scary

Definitely not toddler-age appropriate. Its very cute but has some scary scenes such as the bully who steals and the nightmare train. Graphics for these scene... Continue reading

What's the story?

In Dreamland, a group of magical trains called Dream Haulers are responsible for delivering dreams and wishes to kids. But one small train, Little Engine (voiced by Alyson Stoner), is deemed too small to do anything but shunt boxcars in the train yard. One day, after an older train, Rusty (Jim Cummings), falls asleep on the job, a boy named Richard (Dominic Scott Kay) climbs aboard and is inadvertently shuttled back to Dreamland, where he accidentally causes the tunnel to the real world to collapse. The train-depot Tower (Whoopi Goldberg) demotes Rusty, so Little Engine offers to return Richard back home over dangerous old tracks on Dream Mountain. On their journey, a creepy Nightmare Train offers to help Little Engine, but he has other plans to trap Richard and his new pals -- a clown (Jamie Lee Curtis), a sock monkey (Jeff Bennett), and other toys -- in Dreamland forever.

Is it any good?

Based on the classic children's tale, this version of THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD is original and features an expert voice cast that makes the characters come alive. Little Engine, Richard, and their friends have to overcome a number of obstacles -- mechanical, environmental, and emotional -- to make it over the mountain, and it's tense at times as our heroes attempt to outsmart the maniacal Nightmare Train. But Little Engine and Richard both learn to believe in themselves and the power they have to -- as The Sound of Music teaches -- "climb every mountain."

Some of the production values aren't exactly at Pixar-level quality (a scene's focus sometimes shifts abruptly, or the background won't be as detailed as it should be), but it's probably not something that little kids will notice.Think of it more on par with a daytime cartoon's prime-time special than a theatrical feature, and you won't be disappointed. Ultimately, this is a sweet story with pleasant characters and a message that will make kids want to try their hardest and to never give up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the message that if you think you can do something, you will. What does that mean? How does Little Engine beat the odds and everyone's expectations? Have you ever accomplished something others didn't think you could?

  • Does being too small keep Little Engine from taking on big tasks? How can kids learn from her example?

  • How does Richard's adventure in Dreamland help him when he's back in the Real World?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love vehicles

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate