Amidst the summer holiday fare from your Pixars, Transylvanian hotels and animated characters you’ve never heard of this year, there’s a fresh adventure for Thomas the Tank Engine. As per the last big screen film, it’s a modest production, backed in part by the company behind Showcase Cinemas. There’s little ambition to the narrative or scale of the production behind ultimately flogging a few discs when its gets to Asda, and this new movie stays close to the formula.
The premise this time sees Thomas encounter Ace, a racing car who failed the Cars movie audition, who happens to be voiced by Peter Andre. Ace is taking on a challenge that involves racing around five continents, Thomas fancies a bit of that, and the adventure… I’ve run out of inclination to tell you the plot.
It’s always a risk taking a character away from their natural environment, and the contained island of Sodor has long been the playground in which the Thomas stories have operated. The writers here, though, play oblivious to the time when Only Fools & Horses went to Miami, and One Foot In The Grave popped off to the Algarve. Instead, they sort of travel the world, only galloping across the last stops when they realise the running time is closing in.
On the downside, then. The songs. Yikes. Not a highlight. Although I did enjoy one early tune where everyone is looking for Thomas and some characters look thrilled that he’s gone. Furthermore, there’s not a human character in the film who doesn’t look constipated at best, and in need of some pressing medical attention at worst.
Understandably, Thomas’ journey avoids built up cities, or anything that’d involve a lot of background work. But you still get a flavour of a global journey. I could also fully get behind the bit of the plot where it becomes a quest to find some coffee. I duly perked up.
It’s not a great film, this, but also, I’m not putting a score on it. For this reason: as I left the relatively busy cinema on Sunday morning, I walked past a young boy, who couldn’t be more than four or five – the ideal target audience for the film – who had a smile as big as you could imagine, and who was – I’m going to use the word literally – literally dancing in the aisle. The film had made him that happy, that I’m damned if I’m going to rain fire on it.
And yeah. There are some decent messages for that age groups. And yeah, there’s a bit of me that wanted to point out to said young man that if he liked this, there’s a ton of stuff out there he’s going to love. But there he was. A young boy, in a cinema, so happy about the film that he got up to dance at the end.
I love that. He gets five stars. I hope his love of cinema continues to blossom.
Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures! The Movie is in UK cinemas now.