Thunderbirds

The youngest son in a family of international celebrity billionaires wants very badly to join the family business. The family business happens to be International Rescue, a secret organization that rescues people using rocket ships, mini-subs, and other high-tech machinery. If you haven't caught on that this is a kids movie go to the back of the class with many of America's film critics.

Thunderbirds is based on the 1964 TV series of the same name. One memorable aspect of the TV series was its use of marionettes instead of actors. Except for the marionettes, the movie does a fantastic job of staying true to the Thunderbird TV universe. The movie is set in time before the TV series with Alan, the youngest member of the Tracy family, not yet a full-fledged member of the team. And oh is he chomping at the bit to become one. His youthful zeal causes him to make a few mistakes, but as the story unfolds he learns the importance of teamwork and friendship. In the story's background are the Thunderbirds, the rocket ships and other fantastical machines used by International Rescue.

As a kid's movie Thunderbirds was excellent, at least judging from the smiles of the kids leaving the theatre. Unlike some "kid's movies" there are no weird agendas or mixed messages. For adults, the story line is thin. There are a few bits of humour that transcend the kids, but the story is straight forward with almost no sub-plots or layers.

For those who remember the 1960's TV series, they did an awesome job of realizing the Thunderbirds universe. Thunderbirds 1 through 5, Tracy Island, and Lady Penelope's pink "Rolls" (but they couldn't call it that) are impeccable. All of the original characters return. Alan Tracy and Tin Tin are adolescent, and they gave Brains a son named Fermat to make the young adults a trio. The story line was very much in keeping with stories from the original series. The only thing missing were the puppet strings and Lady Penelope's cigarette!

Most all of the adult performances were excellent. Bill Paxton as father Jeff Tracy and Ben Kingsley as evil villain "The Hood" were a presence on screen. Sadly, Anthony Edwards gave a lame performance as Brains. The two boys, Brady Corbet as Alan Tracy and Soren Fulton as Fermat, did a little better but not much. On the other hand, Vanessa Anne Hudgens put in an excellent performance as Tin Tin. She's a natural and probably the biggest reason the girls leaving the theatre were smiling along with the boys.

A special mention goes to Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and Ron Cook as her man servant Parker. Their characters in the original series juxtaposed the aristocrat/manservant stereotype and British "gentleman" spy stereotype with fun results. Myles and Cook pulled off this chemistry in the movie.

Director Jonathan Frakes' TV experience with Star Trek served him well in keeping the movie's character true to the TV series. Unfortunately, and I'm not sure if the fault is his or the script's, the story complexity didn't go beyond that of a Thunderbirds TV show, either.

Unfortunately, Thunderbirds simply wasn't marketed properly and was punished at the box office because of it. Although the special effects and authenticity of the Thunderbird story universe are excellent the story is too kid oriented and simple for mass appeal to boomers who remember the TV series from childhood and adult science fiction fans. As a kid's story it wasn't marketed properly. There's no fast food kid's meal toys or other tie ins to get this movie on the kid's radar and in the theatres.

If you're interested in Thunderbirds after hearing it's a kid's movie go see it. It's not high art but it's better than it's getting credit for.

 

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