A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are moments of real physical peril for the flawed hero that may worry his preschool-aged fans: Thomas nearly plunges from a suspension bridge, is cast into a dark mining shaft, and then almost sinks. Virtually every animated train, plane, truck, and barge in the Thomas & Friends pantheon has at least a small role in the movie, including the few female characters.
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What's the story?
In this straight-to-DVD story, Thomas the Tank Engine goes from hero to zero and back to hero again. Thomas is hailed for his discovery of the long-lost village of Waterton; in thanks for his discovery, he is assigned the important job of overseeing its restoration. Thomas, whose goal in life is to feel useful, lets the power of his new role go to his head and becomes jealous of a new arrival, Stanley, who is sent to help out. A few backfiring tricks later, Stanley is in charge, and Thomas is an outcast who must work to regain the trust and affection of friends like Percy, Gordon, and Sir Topham Hatt.
Is it any good?
The movie works on multiple levels. For youngest viewers, the colorful sights and individual personalities of each train car and vehicle are visually stimulating, and a peppy sing-along soundtrack keeps the fairly slow story from lagging too much. Pierce Brosnan, replacing Ringo Starr as storyteller, uses an array of accents and voices that enhance the story.
There are moments of anguish portrayed by Thomas that all children may find familiar: the fear and jealousy of new classmates and playmates, and the need to figure out whether and where they fit in with friends. The movie touches on subjects that are well worth discussing even with young children: how can we treat new friends? What is forgiveness -- and how can you earn it, and give it? Thomas sometimes makes mistakes, but he does his best to fix them, making him a great role model for children.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Thomas' feelings of being left out when Stanley arrives on the scene. Have you ever felt that way when a new student or playmate arrived at your school or daycare?
How could Thomas have handled his worries differently?
Thomas and his friends love to feel useful more than anything else -- just like the preschoolers who make up his fan base. Are there simple household chores that kids could take over, to achieve that same sense of usefulness?
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