Thunderbirds (2004) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and language
Running Time: 94 min.
Cast: Brady Corbet, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles, Soren Fulton, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ron Cook, Phillip Winchester
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Screenplay: William Osborne, Michael McCullers (based on the 1965 television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson)
"Thunderbirds are go!"-ing to make you fall asleep.
I didn't grow up watching the television adventures of the humanitarian family, but I've stopped to look at it briefly many times. It usually takes a few minutes before I realize that watching a bunch of puppets flying around in a spaceship on strings just held little entertainment value for me. Obviously, this show must have some appeal to people as they keep showing the damn reruns of it, and here they are making it into a major motion picture.
After seeing what I can only describe as a joyless, soulless experience, the only thought that goes through my head is, "Why??" Why in the world could such trite heroics and woefully underdeveloped characters be of interest to anyone? Sure, this flick is obviously aimed at young kids, but I can't imagine any but the most starved for entertainment being remotely interested in seeing about 70 minutes of monotonous special effects crammed between 25 minutes of bland family values arguments and hokey attempts at humor.
The background: Jeff Tracy (Paxton, One False Move) and his family head a space-age international rescue team, collectively known as the Thunderbirds, who fly all around the Earth and beyond trying to save as many lives as possible, averting cataclysmic disaster at every turn. Meanwhile, their arch nemesis, the wicked schemer known as The Hood (Kingsley, Sneakers) concocts a plan to get the TB crew out of the way, snatching their precious and powerful airship, in order to perform a large bank heist in London and blame the world's greatest heroes. Although the Thunderbirds are ably dispatched, The Hood doesn't realize that the youngest children of the fighting force, who are too immature to be part of the team, must come of age in a hurry to not only save their family, but also the world from unbridled villainy.
Thunderbirds is directed by Jonathan "Commander Riker" Frakes (Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection), whose short attention span style of filmmaking means to throw special effects at you whenever there is a lack of inspiration onscreen, and that means constantly. Wasted are normally fine actors like Paxton, Kingsley and a particularly awful turn by Anthony Edwards (El Diablo). Only some decent young actors and good special effects saves this from the bottom of the movie abyss, but it sure doesn't do much to keep you from nodding off in your seat every few minutes.
Thunderbirds owes more to films like Spy Kids and the movie version of Lost in Space than it does to the original television series, so if you like slickly-made family sci-fi schlock targeted at the youngest of the audience members, you may not mind this mostly inferior knock-off. If your kids are old enough to watch a film without constant supervision, you'd probably to well to drop them off and check out another film in the cineplex while its showing, as this is almost completely devoid of interest for anyone who has seen more than five movies in their lifetime.
©2004 Vince Leo