Bringing "Thunderbirds” to the big screen is probably the biggest gamble we’ve seen a small production studio like Working Title Films ever attempt; it’s based on a cult 1960’s British television series that traded actors for “supermarionettes,” lasted barely two seasons and has a small (albeit very dedicated) fan base.
So why did Jonathan Frakes (of “Star Trek” fame) and producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Mark Huffman take on this hugely expensive, potentially disastrous project?
For the fun of it, of course.
And it’s for the fun of it that kids of all aged should run to the theatres to soak in the brightly-colored, delightfully over-the-top, surprisingly feel-good movie of the summer.
“Thunderbirds” is really about a family. Patriarch Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) made his fortune in aerospace but lost his wife tragically; having dumped all of his cash into a fleet of spacecraft dedicated to the premise of international rescue, he now oversees his team of rescue personnel (also knows as his sons – every last one of them a teenaged, blonde buff boy ripped from the latest Abercrombie catalog, and cavorting onscreen in bathing suits to prove it) from the comfort of Tracy Island, secret home of the fleet, its personnel, and a virtual bevy of brightly-colored furniture shaped like oversized fruits. His overeager youngest son, Alan (Brady Corbet), is too young to go on missions, but his heroic abilities are finally tested when the evil villain “The Hood” (Ben Kingsley) traps the rest of the family in outer space. Assisted by the sultry Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward (Sophia Myles), her butler Parker (Ron Cook) and young friends Fermat (Soren Fulton) and Tin-Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), Alan pulls out the techno-gadgets and opens a can of “F-A-B” on the bad guys.
It’s about as far-fetched and hysterical a film as you’ll find, dear readers – and yet it’s been produced with an incredible attention to detail in its production quality and style. This is no second-rate action film; it’s John Beards visual hyperactivity blended with Frakes’ seasoned sci-fi/action-adventure expertise and enough capable CGI work to keep the fun flowing throughout. Spicy dialogue from William Osborne and Michael McCullers shows plenty of self-deprecating wit. My favorite: Lady P scolding Alan, “Alan, please don’t talk about what I do, I’m an undercover agent and I’m trying to be discreet” just before getting in her vibrant pink six-wheeled limousine/spaceship and blasting off to England to catch tea.
You can easily dismiss the earnest acting of Corbet, Fulton and Hudgens, along with the ever-stiff delivery of Bill Paxton – there is plenty here to giggle and cheer at, even when the Thunderbirds are on a serious mission. Kids will adore this movie, and their parents will delight in its determinedly tongue-in-cheek delivery. As for the rest of us, there are plenty of films out this summer which would gladly chew up your $10 bill for a dull thud of entertainment scratched out over two hours – this is not one of them. See it for the same reason it was made: just for the fun of it. “Thunderbirds” are GO!