A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thomas & Friends: The Great Race is a mildly suspenseful, often amusing entry in the Thomas collection of original DVDs. With strong, easily understandable messages about being happy with who you are and making the most of your talents, Thomas makes some mistakes and learns from them. An effort has been made here to bring diversity to the franchise, so there are a number of vibrant female characters, as well as trains from other countries that arrive to take part in the fun (a female train from India plays an important role). Cartoon action includes: bumps and crashes; a train racing without all of its safety mechanisms in place; an engine teetering on the edge of a bridge, and several close calls with trains in danger of colliding. There are no serious scares or negative outcomes. Since Thomas is a franchise from Great Britain, most of the train characters speak with British dialects; a few of the featured engines have been re-voiced as American. This movie, with several new original songs, is part of the Thomas & Friends brand, which markets films, books, toys and games, a vast array of related products, and has a popular website.
What's the story?
Sir Topham Hat and all the trains on Sodor Island are looking forward to a special day on the mainland in THOMAS & FRIENDS: THE GREAT RACE. Upcoming is an event during which the mainland will host trains from all over the world as they parade and compete in various contests (shunting, strength, speed). All the engines on Sodor are practicing, getting spruced up, and hoping to be one of the lucky trains Sir Topham Hat chooses to join the fun. Unfortunately for Thomas ( voiced by Joseph May in the American release), he hasn't quite figured out which event he's best suited for, and he gets in just enough trouble to be left behind. That is, until it's discovered that impatient Gordon, the strongest locomotive on Sodor, has left the island before his final safety check and the installation of a vital valve. Thomas makes a mad dash from Sodor to the mainland, hoping to warn his friend before a catastrophe occurs.
Is it any good?
Old and new fans will enjoy this traditional Thomas tale with a sincere lesson about "being yourself" at its heart, and which includes a more diverse cast than usual (both female and international). Ashima (Tina Desai), a decorated steam engine from India, provides a strong, relatable character for girls. Thomas & Friends: The Great Race introduces several hit-and-miss original songs, all of which bolster the characterizations and the messages expressed. There's enough conflict (lamentably, the most loutish bully in the group of contestants is an American) and mild suspense to hold the interest of kids even older than its intended preschool audience. Entertaining and gently instructive, it's a typically simple Thomas & Friends story that won't disappoint.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Thomas learned about "being himself" in Thomas & Friends: The Great Race. His abilities at "shunting" make him special and useful. What makes you special? What do you do that is useful and helpful to others?
Philip tells Thomas that, "You can do anything you want to, if you just put your mind to it." What does he mean? Can you think of something you've accomplished that makes this true for you?
Why were Thomas and Ashima both winners? What did each of them do to earn their awards? Everyone doesn't get an actual prize for doing his or her best, but how does a job well done make you feel about yourself?
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