R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jonathan Frakes
scr William Osborne, Michael McCullers
with Brady Corbet, Soren Fulton, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, Sophia Myles, Ron Cook, Anthony Edwards, Rose Keegan, Deobia Oparei, Philip Winchester, Lex Shrapnel, Dominic Colenso, Ben Torgersen
release UK 23.Jul.04, US 30.Jul.04
04/UK 1h40~
Thunderbirds are go: Corbet (above) and Paxton (centre, below, with two interchangeable Tracy sons).

paxton kingsley myles
Thunderbirds Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
The enduring 1960s TV series finally gets the live-action treatment in this energetic and amusing romp. That the film feels constructed for very young children is more than a little annoying, but there's enough sharp humour to keep us laughing.

After holding a grudge against the International Rescue team for years, The Hood (Kingsley) has a plan: He lures Jeff Tracy (Paxton) and his world-saving sons to the orbiting Thunderbird 5 then strands them there! Then he steals Thunderbird 2 to rob the Bank of London, blaming it on the IR team. But he forgets about three teens: youngest brother Alan Tracy (Corbet), chomping at the bit to be an action hero; his pal Fermat (Futon), a nerd just like his dad, the Tracy's tech-genius Brain (Edwards); and Tin-Tin (Hudgens), daughter of the housekeepers, who knows Tracy Island inside out.

Filmed in a zany, colourful style reminiscent of the Spy Kids movies, this is enjoyable fun until earnest lines of dialog bring everything to a shrieking stop. As he did with Clockstopppers, Frakes directs the film in a condescending style that underestimates the audience badly--it's just too childish and simplistic. But the performances are quite good, the effects are garish enough that the filmmakers get away with it, and there are terrific jokes and visual gags generously scattered through the witty script. Most of these come courtesy of Myles and Cook as the super-pink British spy Lady Penelope and her bulldog-like driver Parker; they're fantastic good fun! And Corbet plays Alan's coming-of-age nicely as well--bursting with teen angst and pent-up energy.

You just wish the filmmakers had a bit more faith in their audience; trying to overlay a forced moral lesson onto a film like this is both pointless and tiresome. There's also far too much glaring product placement, one of which reaches such satirical proportions that they might has well have called the film Thunderbirds: Sponsored by Ford! And everything is aimed at the very young, from cheesy exposition to toothless violence to a contrived plot that really has to keep working to make sure the kids are the heroes. And yet we cheer for them anyway!

cert PG action, some violence, innuendo 23.May.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Oran, London: 5/5 "Well, I was one of the lucky ones to have seen the premiere and I have to say that I loved it. The acting was awesome, the jokes and underlying gags were excellent and all in all it was great. I couldn't wait for Lady P to come on screen with her unabashed beauty and mindblowing poise. Brady Corbet was great as Alan Tracy, the saviour of the day - very handsome with years to go too. Not enough credit has been given to the other four Tracy brothers without whom the movie would not have worked - very sexy and talented young men. My 9 neices and nephews will be getting a big treat when this hits the big screen. I am, as it happens, going again. Any old excuse." (22.Jul.04)

Thunderbirds James Smith, London: 1/5 "Gerry Anderson had nothing to do with this film and that should be made clear from the start. This is not a film to go and see if you have ever seen the original series. If you haven't and are above the age of thirteen, then again, you probably want to give it a miss. Better still save your money and buy a DVD of the original - you can at least watch that again without the desire to rip your eyeballs from their sockets. Frakes has gone way down in my estimation - I mean did he watch any of the original series? Did whoever wrote the screenplay realise they were ruining, what was for many people over thirty a long-held dream, namely a live-action Thunderbirds? If you think you can stomach the changes then prepare for a flying FAB1 which is a Ford not a Rolls (although to be fair Rolls Royce did say no), an unrecognisable Thunderbird 5, and Brains has a son. Revamping classic TV can be done well, see Tim Burton's Batman, The Fugitive, The Adams Family. Where it all goes wrong is where things are changed (usually beyond belief), not just updated: see, or rather don't see, The Avengers, Lost In Space, the later Batman movies." (22.Jun.04)

Zara, Scotland: 5/5 "i thought this was amazing. i had grew up around it from the tv series and i thought that jonathon did a brill job on it. i was very impressed by the effects and how the thunderbirds themselves looked. it was really cool and funny. its the best movie i've seen in ages! and it's made me go ahead an become an actor myself. brady corbet, who plays Alan, he's my hero as they say. thanks to him i'm definitely gonna become an actor. thanks to all the people who made thunderbirds. i'm well impressed by how well they have done with it and looking forward for more of the thunderbirds in the future. thanks again. and to me the thunderbirds really are go!" (22.Jun.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall