National Post (Latest Edition)
I love Toronto’s streetcars. They’re zero-emission vehicles, a smooth ride, and the scenery is better than in the subway. So I expected that The Trolley, which celebrates electric trams in Toronto and around the world, would be the ride of my life.
Boy, was I was shortturned.
The problem is that Canadian writer/director Stephen Low is so enamoured of the streetcar that he will brook no iota of negativity in this 46-minute Imax love letter.
Do you like picturesque European squares? “The tram was the perfect final brushstroke” to their beauty. Do you fancy reliable transportation? The film shows trolleys at work in the ruins of Second World War Dresden, London and even Hiroshima.
And if you don’t like streetcars, you may as well be the Devil. One photo shows evil auto barons hoisting a giant cheque in front of a torched tram. Subways — which, let’s face it, don’t impede surface traffic and never have to face weather — are derided as “a trolley’s worst nightmare.” The annual Easter procession in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood is reframed to look like a trolley tickertape parade.
On the plus side, The Trolley presents some stunning Imax images in the service of a brief history of electric urban transportation; trolley luminaries such as Cleveland’s Peter Witt, whose namesake cars plied Toronto’s streets from the 1920s to the ’60s; and a rosy suggestion of the future of the form.
But anti-trolley forces will be grinding their teeth at this lopsidedly cheery take on the streetcar. And even those who love the electric tram may find themselves wishing for a more balanced appraisal. The movie’s smug tone may, ironically, leave you liking streetcars a little less.•• The Trolley opens June 2 at the Cinesphere at Ontario Place. If you want to get there by streetcar, the 511 will get you close.