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For years it was the kids’ programme liberal parents loved to hate – all those male trains burning fossil fuel in that little corner of Ukip paradise, the Isle of Sodor. But the rehabilitation of Thomas the Tank Engine steams ahead with this earnest film featuring lady engines and international friends from the franchise’s new rolling stock. The whole thing has a straight-to-DVD quality, or perhaps a TV episode padded out with a few limp songs. (“I’m free and easy, lemon squeezy, never saying pretty-please-y”.)
Once again that noted shirker Thomas is learning life lessons about friendship and keeping your promises, this time getting his wheels burned by a toxic friendship with a devil-may-care Australian racing car, Ace (voiced by Peter Andre). Suffering a serious case of engine envy, Thomas abandons his responsibilities at the station to tag along with Ace on a round-the-world race. First stop is Dakar, and then it’s over to the Amazon rainforest (miraculously unspoiled by climate change). Inevitably, reckless Ace leaves Thomas high and dry, while Nia, a female engine from Kenya, turns out to be a better friend – despite Thomas huffily attempting to ditch her at every available opportunity.
The overhaul here seems sincere if a little strained, and the franchise deserves some points for unshackling Thomas from the yesteryear universe of creator the Rev Wilbert Awdry, a vicar and railway enthusiast. But the lazy gender stereotypes need to go. Predictably, the super-cool, risk-taking racing car is male, while the role of the female engine is to be virtuous and peace-making. And if Thomas really is going to lunge for the zeitgeist, where’s the rail disruption, journey chaos and apoplectic passengers venting their frustration on social media?
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Thomas & Friends: Big World! Big Adventures! The Movie review – signal failure | Animation in film