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Case Number 20953: Small Claims Court

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The Little Engine That Could

Universal // 2010 // 82 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 22nd, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson is relatively certain he may or may not be able to.

The Charge

"I think I can, I think I can…"

The Case

How to make a short children's story into a full-length feature film? Thankfully, it doesn't involve Paris Hilton.

In this particular mythology, the trains don't haul fossil fuels or depleted uranium shells, but toys and happiness from Dreamland. Mostly there are giant, macho locomotives that do the hauling, but for The Little Engine That Could, a puny, good-natured engine who fears the imposing mountain trail out of Dreamland, duty will soon call. With just her trusty caboose (voiced by Patrick Warburton, Rules of Engagement) and a hapless little kid inadvertently stranded in Dreamland, the Little Engine is going to have to do the seemingly impossible: conquer her fears while towing a full load of nightmarish circus clowns.

I have nothing bad to say about this movie. I can try I guess, reach deep down into my dark, leathery soul and pluck out a handful of Internet snark to toss at The Little Engine, but it's the first day of spring! A time of renewal and hope and warmth! So let us set aside the bitter winter of sneering and douchebaggery and embrace a simple, good-natured family film for what it is: a simple, good-natured family film.

G-rated productions are as rare these days as a federal balanced budget amendment, so it's always nice to see a studio serve up something for all audiences. The Little Engine is completely innocuous and devoid of any sort of polarizing message, political or otherwise. All we're talking about is an overachieving locomotive working her butt off to get to the top of a huge mountain. We can all relate, yes? Plus, the big, powerful locomotives aren't dicks, so that's nice. Everyone seems genuinely pleased with the Little Engine's work ethic.

The message is straightforward: conquer your fears, and the human kid along for the ride takes his lesson into the real world where he stands up to some big mean kids at a row of vending machines, which inexplicable serve apples and bananas. Fine, so there's some subtle child obesity stuff woven in, but if that's as controversial as it gets you're looking at a scrubbed-clean experience that also happens to be colorful, amusing, and charming. Recommended.

The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and no extras.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. Chug away.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated G
• All Ages
• Animation

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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