SOMETIMES you wonder how on Earth something made its way into a cinema when early morning TV is clearly its rightful home. The latest addition to the ongoing Thomas the Tank Engine franchise is one such film.

Adapted from Britt Allcroft’s TV spin-off from author Wilbert Awdry’s book series, this feature-length adventure sees Thomas (voiced by John Hasler) embarking on a mission to be the first train to traverse the globe, with the worried Fat Controller frantically on his tail.

There’s admittedly some worthy messages in there about inclusiveness, bravery and having fun with your friends; on his journey Thomas meets trains of various nationalities, notably the series’ first African character in Kenyan train Nia (Yvonne Grundy). But while well intentioned, the outreach is consistently ham-fisted and occasionally reaches over into patronising territory.

The episodic structure is bland in the extreme as Thomas travels from continent to continent – a lack of actual tracks in some of the planet’s most hard-to-reach destinations be damned. Coupled with the cheap and cheerful animation style, it only seeks to remind you that this just doesn’t belong on the big screen.

It’s also secretly a musical, many parents will be horrified to know, forcing song after terrible song on to you (including a signature tune by Peter Andre no less, voicing fun-obsessed race car Ace) that not only grinds the adventure to a halt but is pitched at a kind of repetitive ear-worm level that makes it memorable in all the worst ways.

It’s an outing as cobbled together and needlessly protracted as the title suggests and one that for anyone above the age of four will be as arduous as trying to push a locomotive through treacle while someone sings nursery rhymes in your face. It’s an easy sell to that young target audience, of course, but there’s simply much more nourishing animated fare out there to take in.