Going into the year, various films early on were pegged to be dismal failures as movies, and so far “Thunderbirds” is the film to best live up to the bad word of mouth. The insanely expensive kiddies flick is quite simply up there with the likes of “The Flintstones” or “The Avengers” in terms of how bad a TV show movie adaptation can be.
It’s a bigger budget but far less smart “Spy Kids” which aims for a far younger audience. There’s nothing here for anyone who counts their age in two figures (except the freezer and pool scenes if only for suggested nudity), and short of the flashy ship effects, even the littlies aren’t going to be too happy. It’s hard to begin to explain where this goes wrong so lets focus on the one or two things that went right.
The two shining graces here are Myles and Kingsley. Myles looks to be having an absolute ball playing the high kicking well-mannered Lady Penelope and gets the one or two lines in the film that do induce a smirk (“how dare you, this dress is couture”). Kingsley on the other hand plays his ‘The Hood’ as an entirely sinister and dark character which seems oddly slotted into this limp but colourful material.
Both stand out way above the rest – none of the child actors leave any mark (incl. the bland Brady Corbet), Paxton and Edwards deliver horribly flat turns, and the Tracy boys (who get a few lines of pure exposition each) seem more like they’re auditioning for the cast of a younger “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” than playing death defying astronauts. None of them though are helped by a totally mis-managed script which runs over itself a bunch and relies on logic leaps and various “damn those pesky kids” style moments that plague all the bad efforts of this genre (eg. “Scooby Doo 2”).
Frakes who made a strong directing debut with the superb “Star Trek: First Contact” has sadly only gone downhill. Whilst he and his designers insert some nice tip of the hat design elements to the original show, much of it still seems awkwardly suited to today’s times. The “Thunderbirds” vehicles looked awesome in the 60’s, in present day though they seem like clunky relics. This is the kind of film that makes you long for the days of something which gets the kiddie flick formula right like “Spy Kids”. There’s no way that Paxton and his twink brigade can save this movie let alone the world.