The Brave Engineer

Film Review by Dean Duncan Mar 26, 2015

That is a lovely first shot. Jerry Colonna, who narrates, is a caution. There’s some really nice animated geometry as the engine goes to great and twisted lengths to get out of the train yard. After that, The Brave Engineer turns pretty strained, and pretty strange, too. Didn’t Casey Jones actually die? Partly because of unreasonable pressure to be on time, partly because of his own bravado? In other words, this is a pretty great source for a story, one deserving of more than mere whitewash or uplift. That’s what we get though, and the combination of attempted comedy and a bowdlerized ending makes this a fairly distasteful concoction.

I’m watching some of these things on Disney’s 2005 rarities collection. It’s true of films too: one must be kind to orphans! And there are rewards affixed. One-offs can frequently give us a glimpse of unpursued possibilities, not to mention reflecting their own inherent qualities. But mostly, there’s little revelation to these ones. These orphans just seem misbegotten, or maybe overly-naked examples of what would become the latter, conformist, utterly-entrepeneurial Walt. (Not fully fair? Maybe, but I’m making a point here!) There are wan, even apathetic gestures toward the anarchy that this kind of comedy kind of needs. In the end, though, mere shill-ing.