And while he still enjoys playing with Thomas trains and track sets, he hasn’t watched the show in a long time. So I was concerned about his interest when I popped in the new movie, Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails.
One day while hauling freight, Thomas heads down a dead-end stretch of track and discovers an abandoned, broken-down Japanese steam engine named Hiro, who used to be “master of the railway.” Fearing that Hiro will be scrapped if anyone finds him in his current condition, Thomas promises to secretly bring Hiro new parts to make him useful again. Thomas’ biggest obstacle in helping Hiro? A new addition to the Isle of Sodor: the bigger, faster, modern, and arrogant train Spencer.
With Hero of the Rails, gone are the model sets and limited facial expressions of the trains from previous Thomas adventures. It’s now all CGI – which surprisingly stays very faithful to the original TV show, but now with the added bonus of fluid facial movements and moving mouths, walking and talking townfolk, and more action from crash sequences.
In true Thomas fashion, Hero of the Rails practices and (quietly) preaches valuable moral and life lessons, including helping those in need, friendship, teamwork, and dealing with bullies. (The snarky cynic in me sensed a political subtext about being a useful member of society: the fear that you need to prove you’re useful – a la frail, elderly Hiro – so you don’t get “scrapped.”)
With the makeover Thomas & Friends gets with Hero of the Rails – animation instead of models, each train with its own voice rather than the narrator’s – some will say, “It’s about time,” while others may say Thomas has jumped the shark. That debate aside, Hero of the Rails is an enjoyable film for kids, and adults may actually find it entertaining because of the makeover, not in spite of it.
What did Dash think?
Dash didn’t care that Thomas and crew were now all CGI. In fact, he enjoyed Hero of the Rails more than he ever liked the TV show, laughing several times (I even laughed at a scene). In the middle of the film, out of nowhere, he declared, “This is a pretty cool movie.” He also offered his opinion on braggart Spencer: “He’s really a snob.”
Will your kids like it?
Hero of the Rails should appeal to any kids 7 or younger. Boys may be the primary audience, but there are several strong female trains in the film to appear to girls.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
I think she’ll find Hero of the Rails to be watchable for adults, and an entertainingly fun film for young kids.