Thunderbirds Movie Review

Kids who are relatively new to movies and unfamiliar with cynicism will love Thunderbirds, Jonathan Frakes' live-action take on the cult 1960s puppets and rockets show. Kids are bound to love the fast pace and broad characters as the kid cast triumphs over evil adults and get rewarded by the cool ones.

The reason why I can't recommend Thunderbirds is common in mediocre kids' fare: It offers nothing for the adults playing chaperone, who will be flat-out bored. Frakes and his screenwriters make no attempt to entertain anyone over the age of 13, unless you find stuttering and bad teeth uproarious. If ever there was a movie meant for DVD, this is it. Mom can pay the bills or read a book in the living room, as the kids argue over how cool it would be to ride one of the Thunderbirds.

These "advanced rescue vehicles" are driven by the brave folks at International Rescue, headquartered on a remote South Pacific island. Led by ex-astronaut and billionaire Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton), IR is strictly a family affair: Tracy's four boys, all of whom look like fine candidates for a boy band, work on the dangerous missions around the world.

You would think that Jeff would want to hire a fifth person for that shift, or at least a temp to handle the occasional flood or erupting volcano. That's not the case. A fifth son, Alan (Heath Ledger-in-training Brady Corbet) remains in private school, desperate to be a Thunderbird. Dad will hear none of it. So, Alan is left to dream his dreams with his nerdy buddy (Soren Fulton) and an island girl with powers (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) lifted from an X-Men hero.

When a band of goons led by The Hood (Ben Kingsley) invades IR's island and threatens to use their equipment to rob the world's banks, the kids have to save the day. Lessons about teamwork and kindness get learned; bad guys get kicked in the nuts and covered in goop. All ends well.

Again, this is great for youngsters, but what about those who have a mortgage? Well, there are a few things older audience members can do to occupy the time. First, notice how bored Paxton and Kingsley look throughout. Kingsley, who was so good that it bordered on hyperbole in House of Sand and Fog, can play villains, but simply goes through the motions here. Paxton seems to know he has a bad role and just phones it in. That sets the tone. If the actors don't appear interested, then an adult audience can't be expected to follow suit.

Also, the use of stuttering here is awful. Not only does Fulton's character stutter, but so does his father, played by Anthony Edwards. There are certain screenwriting crutches that are unforgivable, and stuttering for comic effect is one of them, along with horny, unbearably with it senior citizens and beautiful women falling down for no particular reason (see Raising Helen, The Princess Diaries, My Best Friend's Wedding).

You get the idea. For kids, Thunderbirds are go. For adults who have to tag along, I'm sure there are several choice words they'll want to add to the end of "Thunderbirds are..."

Behold the power of foam.


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zac's picture

zac

You are soooooooooo awesome Vanessa

8 years 4 months ago
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Thunderbirds Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 2004

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