I have never watched the Thunderbirds TV show. I’ve never heard of it and neither have most of you [Josh’s Note: Maybe it was just big in Texas when I was a kid. Pip pip, cheerio, yeeehaw!]. Apparently, it was a British children’s show consisting of puppet superheroes [Josh’s Note: Rescue heroes! *weeps for lost childhood*]. While I’m sure my British friends will enlighten me on the show’s greatness, I can’t see anything resembling such accolades in this movie adaptation. With horrid character development and even worse acting, The Thunderbirds would have been better off sticking with the Muppets.
Seriously, who decided Bill Paxton can act? I’m sure he’s a swell guy and he’s pretty handy to have around during a disaster, but I just can’t get over his flat delivery with a complete lack of inflection. Paxton’s best career performance is Chet in Weird Science. Who wants that on top of their resume? But I have good news for fellow Paxton loathers. He’s only in the flick for about 15 minutes! What’s that you say? But he’s Jeff Tracy, the head of the Thunderbirds! He leads his superhero family against all enemies while living on a South Pacific Island. Well this movie isn’t about the Thunderbirds either. It’s about Allen Tracy (Brady Corbet) trying to save his famous family from the talented, if not embarrassed to be in this movie, Ben Kingsley.
The movie begins with the Thunderbirds making a daring rescue while Allen is stuck in school with his friend. After tracking the Tracy’s to their secret hideout, the dastardly Hood (Kingsley) tricks the Thunderbirds and leaves them stranded on a space station. With the superhero family gone, The Hood takes over the island. Allen and his friends are the only ones who can stop The Hood’s evil plans. Yeah, yeah, it sounds cliché. Believe me; it’s worse than it sounds. It’s unfortunate that the kids knew how to fly huge spaceships with relative ease or we could have been spared about an hour of uninspired storytelling.
The central plot of this movie is what bothers me the most. The movie is entitled “Thunderbirds” but I don’t know anything about them. I know the dad is a billionaire- widow turned superhero but his boy-band reject sons are background scenery. I couldn’t tell you their names if I tried. Isn’t one of them married to Jessica Simpson? Even during the finale when they were needed, the story inexplicably sends them off to perform crowd control.
Another questionable aspect was Director Jonathan Frakes deciding that we really wouldn’t be interested in just a superhero family with cool ships. We’d rather watch a kid whine about not getting a cool suit and a complete lack of suspense. Does Rick Berman have anything to do with this? And speaking of the ships, they are the highlight of the trailers but completely underutilized. With only a few minutes of screen time, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are still the most memorable parts of the movie. What gives here? This is the Star Trek equivalent of not using Enterprise as a focal point but having the Captain drive around in a dune buggy. Shouldn’t Frakes know better?
Thunderbirds’ only saving grace is the uber-delicious Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) and her chauffeur, Parker (Ron Cook). She’s rather hot and quite talented with a bra under wire. Did I mention I am in love with her? Er. Anyways, she’s one of only a few who can walk out of this debacle with her head held high. Parker is another. I’m all for Thunderbirds 2 if the Tracy’s are blown into bits while Myles and Cook take over the lead roles. I’m actually surprised at the quality of their parts. Frakes should’ve cast inferior talent in these supporting roles as to mask Paxton’s overall suckiness©.
Thunderbirds could have chosen to be loyal to its roots. Sadly, Universal chose to use a famous name in hopes of launching a Spy Kids-wannabe franchise. Bad move, Universal. Instead of capitalizing on a loyal fan base, Thunderbirds betrays its foundation and underwhelms those unfamiliar with the TV classic. If anyone should know about screwing over fans with screwy plots and bad writing, you would think it would be Frakes.
Reviewed By: Matt Norris