Based on the children's books that spawned an internationally successful television series the film takes big-screen audiences to the magical island of Sodor. Thomas and his engine friends are working under the jolly Mr. Conductor (a superhappy Alec Baldwin) who uses magic dust to travel to the human world. But he's losing his sparkle (literally) and the secret lies somewhere with a magic railroad and lost engine (it gets a little thin from there). A vacationing 12-year-old (Mara Wilson) visiting her grandfather (Peter Fonda) factors into the story. The point of the story is that little engines could do big things but that point is mostly drawn by repeated declarations.
Who knew Baldwin was this chipper? Although a little jarring at first Baldwin -- to his credit -- throws his entire self into Mr. Conductor not once hinting that he's just doing the film as a favor. Fonda is on the other end of the spectrum playing a melancholy grandfather as gracefully and subtlely as Baldwin is flashy. Wilson isn't given a whole lot to do but tag along and appear in awe but the laughs come from Michael E. Rodgers who plays Baldwin's beach loving Scottish cousin adding some much-needed slapstick.
"Thomas" director Britt Allcroft gives the film a bright colorful texture mixing live action and animation. But when trains don't move their lips as they talk (their mouths seem to freeze in various expressions throughout the film while the eyes roll) the movie feels dated.