Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
General Audience: B
Bill Paxton and Ben Kingsley square off in a battle between good and evil. Good, old-fashioned family entertainment. No sex, nudity or seriously objectionable language.
Family Audience: B
Solid-action thrill ride for children 5 to 15. Cool rescue vehicles piloted by wholesome family and friends. Rated PG for one very mild expletive at the end.
Teamwork is the name of the game in Universal Pictures’ new film Thunderbirds. Solitary and impetuous seekers of fame and glory need not apply.
Bill Paxton plays billionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy. Tracy and his sons operate a rescue organization that comes to the aid of people all over the world during every imaginable natural and man-made disaster.
Each mission requires simultaneous and selfless cooperation among Dad Tracy and all four sons. That’s what The Hood (Ben Kingsley) is counting on when he sends a speeding missile into the Thunderbird space station orbiting earth.
Thunderbirds is based on the cult-favorite ‘60s British television series of the same name, which followed the adventures of the Tracy family and their futuristic fleet of international rescue vehicles.
This explains a cast of characters dominated by Brits. Director Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection) wanted the updated version performed with a stiff upper lip, and strong, uncompromising female leads like Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) and Transom (Rose Keegan).
These fearless ladies from the U.K. are smart, single-minded and sassy. They also fight fair and don’t whine when they lose. Although each is on the opposite end of the good-and-evil spectrum, they’re charming in their own beguiling ways.
Lady Penelope is a good-looking millionaire aristocrat and secret agent assisting the Thunderbirds whenever they need a hand. She gets chauffeured around by her loyal and equally talented partner Parker (Ron Cook) in a stylish pink, six-wheeled vehicle that travels on land, sea or air.
On the other hand, Transom, The Hood’s right-hand woman, has a face only a mother could love. She may be wardrobe challenged but she has one redeeming quality: she finds intelligence an aphrodisiac.
When she meets The Brain (Anthony Edwards) she almost loses herself until her boss, The Hood, reminds her of their evil mission.
Lest we forget, Thunderbirds is a large a film about boys and their toys. The toys are impressive on the big screen and will blow you away. No poor quality CGI here. There’s a silver-gray, high-speed reconnaissance rocket; a giant green version of a C-5A Jumbo Jet that looks like a blowfish; a red-rocket space shuttle; a yellow mini-submarine with lobster-like gripping arms; and a mini space station in geo-stationary orbit.
Watching these vehicles in action is half the fun and keeps the attention of every kid in the audience. One of the Tracy boys stores these monstrous machines at his island hideaway in the middle of the South Pacific. This island paradise looks like it was lifted right out of that old television show the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Kids at the screening were impressed watching a sprawling mansion split in two with giant doors opening up between, followed by a thundering boom as the ship blasts off in plume of smoke. Other Thunderbird ships follow suit on route to rescue John Tracy, now trapped in the damaged space station above earth.
Upon arrival, the doors suddenly lock, and The Thunderbirds are trapped inside as the space station begins a slow descent into the earth’s atmosphere.
But wait, Alan, the youngest Tracy, has stayed behind because he’s too young to fly the big machines.
He enlists his friends Fermat (Soren Fulton) and Tin Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) to rescue the Thunderbirds and foil The Hood and his gang. Bespectacled Fermat looks like he’s nine years old, and his brilliance reminds me of Dexter from the television show Dexter’s Laboratory.
Despite being a teenage girl, Tin Tin is more outdoorsy than an Eagle Scout and possesses telepathic skills that prove very useful. Unfortunately, Alan is cocky and ignores the advice of his more talented mates to his demise.
All is not lost, however. At the 11th hour Alan discovers the power of teamwork, and our young heroes seize an opportunity to free the Tracy clan from certain death and save the world. Along the way, Alan realizes the secret of the Thunderbirds’ success: all for one and one for all, and next time you’d best listen to your mates.