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Overall Rating
2.63

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look: 10.71%
Average: 23.21%
Pretty Bad26.79%
Total Crap: 25%

3 reviews, 38 user ratings


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Thunderbirds
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by David Cornelius

"So I liked it. Yes, really."
3 stars

There are a hundred good reasons not to like “Thunderbirds,” but I’m going with the one reason to like it: because it’s fun. It’s a mess of a movie, to be sure, and it’s intent to appeal to kids makes it a weak watch for grown-ups. But you know what? I had a good time. It’s a light, zippy adventure yarn built to thrill, and I bought it. I know I probably shouldn’t have, but I bought it. Bought every inch of its non-refundable silliness. My daughter did, too.

The film is based on the cult classic British TV series of the same name, which introduced the world to “Supermarionation,” a form of puppetry that was equally impressive and surreal. The series followed the Tracy family as they saved the world as “International Rescue,” a group of, well, rescue folks who used massive futuristic vehicles codenamed “Thunderbirds.” Thunderbirds, by the way, is also what the IR team called themselves. Got it?

The Thunderbird vehicles were essentially giant toys, and it takes no thought to see why someone thought this would be the right movie to make: all those fifth grade boys rushing out to the toy store to buy the tie-in merchandise after seeing all those life-size toys flying around and saving the world? Heck, I’d have bought two in my day, allowance permitting, of course.

So the giant toys that save the world premise stinks of cheap marketing, but, somehow, in some way, it works despite itself. Watching the film, I kept thinking that who among us had not, in our younger days, dreamed of life-sized versions of their favorite toys? How cool would it have been to see a Transformer come to life, and get to pilot it, too? Guys, think about what a reaction that would have gotten from you long ago, and you’ve got the feeling of watching “Thunderbirds.” It’s almost enough to forgive the rampant product placement: all them toy-like vehicles are sponsored by Ford. Ugh.

In the filmmakers’ attempts to make their movie more appealing to a young audience, the plot centers not around the Thunderbirds themselves, but around a trio of kids too young to be on the team. The youngest Tracy brother, Alan (Brady Corbet), is first seen moping about being in private school while his family is off on their endless adventures. Alan’s best pal is the nerdy Fermat (Soren Fulton), son of the Thunderbirds’ ace scientist/inventor dude Brains (Anthony Edwards), and he, too, feels left out.

When the boys head off to Tracy Island for Spring Break, Alan becomes quite vocal about his wanting to ditch school and join the team, etc., etc., to which dad Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) replies that he is not old enough, not ready enough, etc., etc. You can see where the plot is headed - the Thunderbirds are soon under attack from the mysterious psychic villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley), and it’s up to Alan and Fermat, plus their spunky gal pal Tin-Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), to save the family and the day.

It’s a predictable, familiar story, but what lighthearted fun. The movie reminds me of the first “Spy Kids,” with its bright, colorful inventions of imagination. The young leads are charming enough to carry the project, while the grown-up supporting cast adds some much welcome kick. Kingsley, apparently taking the job for the fun of it, chews up the scenery like he hasn’t eaten in weeks; his Hood is a deliciously overplayed baddie that makes these kid movies such a hoot. Meanwhile, Sophia Myles, as Lady Penelope, and Ron Cook, as her valet Parker, steal the show with brassy characters that make their scenes look like “The Avengers For Kids.” And Paxton and Edwards, while given far too little to do, look like they’re having enough of a silly good time that the spirit of fun rubs off with great ease.

Following his success directing two of the later “Star Trek” movies, Jonathan Frakes looks to be carving out a comfortable niche as a maker of kids’ sci-fi adventures. His last project was “Clockstoppers,” a movie that lacked a certain oomph to make it work for the whole family; only younger viewers would enjoy it fully. With “Thunderbirds,” however, Frakes goes one better, crafting a slick thrill ride that’s sure to please the grade school and junior high set while managing to keep mom and dad’s interest as well. It’s easy to find the flaws in this movie - the plot isn’t focused enough, the jokes too overplayed, the adventure too predictable - but it says something about Frakes as a filmmaker that he can take these weak elements and deliver a movie that’s enjoyable anyway.

“Thunderbirds” is not a movie for everyone, natch (if it looks like a movie you wouldn’t want to see, trust your hunch), but kids and grown-ups who can recall the spirit of being a kid will eat it up as the friendly, snappy adventure it is.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9178&reviewer=392
originally posted: 12/21/04 06:16:21
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
TV to Screen: For more in the TV to Screen series, click here.

User Comments

9/20/12 Mike Miller Took me back to my days watching the show as a kid. 4 stars
5/06/10 Mr. big penis I typed in Piere De Fermat in advance search along w/ cool,awesome,sweet,and ass.Here I am 1 stars
12/21/09 art ONLY FOR NINE YEAR OLD"S! 1 stars
11/04/08 PAUL SHORTT GOOD-LOOKING SCI-FI ADVENTURE FOR KIDS 3 stars
3/22/08 Pamela White better as puppets 3 stars
5/17/07 Charles Tatum Disposable fluff...kids will love it 2 stars
4/19/07 Stevo UK Oh yes, darling, us English are very snobbish arne't we? Complete Bullshit. 1 stars
8/21/05 Luke Blackadder Better than Spy kids 5 stars
8/19/05 ES Thunder, thunder, thunderbirds- blow! 1 stars
6/05/05 Mark Radburn What is wronng with you people, This movie kicks ass 5 stars
1/15/05 Hawkeye Pierce not as good as the original series (not even close) yet Riker (suprisingly) did a good job 3 stars
12/10/04 Kristina Williams unbearably bad 1 stars
11/20/04 Mark Not as good as the old series of ThunderBirds but still a great movie Thunderbirds rule 3 stars
10/19/04 croweater888 Spy Kids 4 was just great..Oh..sorry thats not what its called? 2 stars
9/18/04 Lindsay Tannock Why did they make it a kids movie? Should have been called "Carry on Thunderbirds" 3 stars
9/16/04 VTOL Those Tracy boys are DAMN fine! Especially Dom Colenso. I loved the original, loved this! 5 stars
9/11/04 alien assassin Ignore this nonsense and check out the original series on DVD !!! 2 stars
9/03/04 Trudy Generate Gandhi turned mega-heist mastermind -- Pretty spooky! 3 stars
9/03/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Better than usual entry in kids rescue besieged parents subgenre. SpyKids eatyour heart out 4 stars
8/04/04 Kate Connor I loved Thunderbirds as a kid/this was fun and entertaining. 4 stars
8/02/04 Woody My son, a Thunderbirds fan, had lots of fun! 4 stars
8/02/04 Chopper3 I watched it with a bunch of kids and they loved it 5 stars
8/02/04 Alfredo Silva A sick mixture between Spy Kids and Cat in the Hat, candidate for worst movie of 2004 1 stars
7/31/04 Alex Keefe I thought this was a fun and entertaining film. Give it more of a chance. 4 stars
7/31/04 Nick Turner This is a great movie! Critics know sh*t - I love TB and loved this too. Diff. but great 5 stars
7/28/04 Mike Devans I woke up at 6 am to watch this crap. 1 stars
7/28/04 conor great awlful 1 stars
7/27/04 asina Down with G4 for destroying TechTV!!! 1 stars
7/27/04 Julian Lady Penelope ROCKS! The Tracy's Suck! 1 stars
7/26/04 Siobhan I was a Thunderbirds fan as a kid, and I actually really enjoyed this. 3 stars
7/25/04 Tom Scott Hollywood strikes again! (shoot Frakes) 1 stars
7/23/04 Sean Norton why bother re-doing if you can't improve it? 1 stars
7/22/04 caroline the best film ever,brady corbet was brilliant 5 stars
7/19/04 mike j eccleshall the worst movie i have seen for a long time. didnt even bother to stay for the end 1 stars
7/19/04 Chopper3 So much better than I had expected, the best live-action film for young kids for years! 5 stars
7/17/04 dark mark totally fantastic film. true to Gerry's animation. 4 stars
7/16/04 Alex Walters Possible the worst movie I have ever seen. Twister comes close, and I belive that has Bill 1 stars
7/11/04 simplythunder@yahoo.co.uk perfect family entertainment 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  30-Jul-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 21-Dec-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  16-Sep-2004 (PG)




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