Despite the continuing craze of this sort of legacy sequel/reboot (more prevalently for blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Top Gun), I was never expecting us to get one for a quaint, gentle British family drama from over 50 years ago. The Railway Children – recently released in cinemas to promote this follow-up – is a much-loved favourite, but hardly a film that leaves audiences crying out for more.
Taking place at the end of WWII, the well-meaning sequel acts also as something of a remake – in that it covers almost all of the same narrative structure albeit with more contemporary themes crowbarred in. It’s hard to get particularly invested in the film as it all just feels so wishy-washy and fluffy, while anyone familiar with even the most basic storytelling isn’t going to find a single surprise in the film’s 99 minutes.
At the end of the day, though, this is a film for younger viewers – and maybe they’ll have a good time with it. It’s bright and simple, with likeable young characters, and a charming performance from everyone’s favourite I-wish-she-was-my-mum Jenny Agutter. This is a children’s film that has largely not even considered putting anything in it for the grown-ups aside from trying to get by entirely on nostalgia for the previous film existing.
The Railway Children Return is sweet enough, but it doesn’t do a single thing to justify its own existence or break free of the chains of just how unnecessary it is. It consistently borders on laughable in its sentimentality and predictability, at times feeling like a spoof of The Railway Children rather than a follow-up to it.
The Railway Children Return probably won’t entertain anyone over the age of 10, but youngsters are in for a simple, bright and breezy watch.