Bottom line:: The Little Engine That Could presents the story of the determined little blue engine in a colorful CG animated story. Contains a couple of scenes that may be frightening to very young children.MPAA Rating: G
Genre: Children's animated
Guide Age Recommendation: Ages 4-8 seems to be the target age range, but some material may be frightening for preschoolers
The Little Engine That Could - Overview
"I think I can, I think I can..." The timeless story of The Little Engine That Could comes to life in brilliant CG color in this animated version from Universal Studios. Because she is a shunter train, The Little Engine (Alyson Stoner) is confined to the rail yard in Dreamland. She dreams of what life is like in the real world, where her train friends deliver dreams to children. Overseen by the the Tower (Whoopi Goldberg), the rail yard is a busy, happy place to be. The Little Engine merrily chugs along, doing her part the best she can. But, when a boy from the real world accidentally ends up in Dreamland things go terribly awry.
The Little Engine knows of a great plan to get Dreamland back on track, but no one wants to listen to such a little engine. So, she tells the real boy, Richard (Corbin Bleu), to climb on board, and she heads out on the long trip to the real world, which lies over a big and dangerous mountain, on her own. Along the way, Richard and the Little Engine meet new friends and face many obstacles. At times, the journey seems impossible, but the Little Engine always remembers some wise advice: "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't. Either way, you're right."
The Little Engine That Could - Guide Review for Parents
The Little Engine That Could animation seems to be loosely patterned after the beloved Watty Piper/Loren Long version of the book. Colorful patchwork hillsides provide a whimsical backdrop for the sweet train characters who inhabit Dreamland. The Dreamland characters and adorable animation really appeal to preschoolers and young elementary age children, and they will relate to the Little Engine's problem of being "too little" to do some things. However, from there, the story takes some interesting twists and turns that seem to be geared more toward older children. Thus, in trying to appeal to a wider audience, The Little Engine That Could seems to be a little mixed up.
After we're introduced to the colorful trains in Dreamland, we see a boy named Richard in the real world. He is being bullied at school by some boys, one of whom threatens that his fist will meet Richard's face, and they steal Richard's father's pocket watch. The scene is a little much for those preschoolers who love the Little Engine That Could picture book. Also, the kids in the movie use words like "dumb," and Richard is kind of a sarcastic little kid. He even calls the sock monkey annoying, which hurts the monkey's feelings. Richard seems to be a character kids more like 6-9 would relate too, especially when he accidentally finds himself in Dreamland after climbing aboard a train and causing "bedlam" by disrupting the "dream reality continuum."
Later in the film, as the Little Engine, Richard and some toy friends chug along through the various fanciful lands of the dream world and then over the mountain, they meet some perilous challenges. Among them, they encounter a Nightmare Train, who acts nice at first, but then imprisons the Little Engine's friends and becomes violent and mean with a demonic voice and scary eyes. Inside the nightmare train, Richard's bullies are back again in nightmare form. These scenes involving the Nightmare Train may be very frightening for young children.
The positive "I Think I Can" message comes through as clear as a train whistle, but who is the message intended for? Six to eight-year-olds may balk at watching a show about a "Little Engine" in a colorful, preschool looking world. On the other hand, some of the content is not wholly appropriate for preschoolers. Still, watching the show with my kids I found myself strangely interested in exactly what kind of peculiar place the little tracks would take us next. I watched the movie with kids of varying ages, and it seems that they all felt the same way. My oldest kept watching, even though parts seemed babyish, and the younger kids got scared, but very much wanted to see what would happen. The Little Engine That Could is one of those funny little films that is a bit strange and kind of random, but still manages to be entertaining. Just be aware that sensitive young children may become frightened.
The Little Engine That Could - Fun Activities
- Of course, reading The Little Engine That Could picture book is a great way to get a little reading in in conjunction with watching the movie. Also, here is a Lesson Plan provided by Scholastic that goes along with the book and has fun activities that could be related to the movie as well.
- If your little one is inspired by The Little Engine That Could, try making this easy and fun train costume from the About.com Family Crafts guide.
- Here are even more fun activities to go along with The Little Engine That Could from Teacher Vision.