Reviewed By The Ultimate Dancing Machine
Posted 07/24/04 22:40:54

"Thunderbirds are CRAP"
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

In a way, I really do admire the cold efficiency of the Hollywood machine. I vaguely envision it as this elaborate, Rube Goldberg-esque contraption in which all kinds of wonderfully strange ideas and notions are inserted in one end and, after much wheezing and cranking of gears, eventually pop out the other end, magically transformed into identical Lucite blocks. So it is with THUNDERBIRDS, based on the beloved '60s British TV show, which resembles every other TV-inspired movie of the last ten years.

In the interest of disclosure, I should point out that I've never seen the TV show. (My fav sci-fi program as a kid was ULTRAMAN, and if that ever hits the big screen, they had better get it right.) I can’t be sure how much the theatrical interpretation differs from the original show, but let’s just say that this tediously unimaginative film doesn’t inspire one to head over to Blockbuster to find out.

They tell me that the THUNDERBIRDS TV show featured puppets instead of actors; this holds true for the film version, although the credits might fool you into believing you’re watching human beings up on the screen. The Thunderbirds—apparently a bunch of guys who fly around in souped-up planes and periodically save the world—are, to a man, a pack of bores; they have as much depth and color as a 1950’s DC comic. (It doesn’t help that they have nothing to do for much of the time except be unconscious, but let’s not get into that.) As the evil Hood, Ben Kingsley is marginally more interesting, mostly because he has cool glowing eyes; but only Sophia Myles, as the bouncy Lady Penelope, brings any semblance of wit and style to the film.

The film is a dispiritingly paint-by-numbers product, with unmemorable dialogue and a standard revenge plot, which I need not elaborate on. The film also has an unpleasantly hurried air; this is one movie where you wish there were more scenes where characters stand around and explain the plot. But director Jonathan Frakes just keeps pushing ahead to the next boringly executed action sequence, which is always accompanied by the kind of intrusive, bombastic score that tries to gull you into thinking that the proceedings are more exciting than they really are.

Apart from Myles, there’s not much to look at here, except for some luscious island scenery. The film’s lack of invention is deadly, especially considering the possibilities inherent in this kind of sci-fi/action material. If there is justice in this world, THUNDERBIRDS will be the last film where we see that tired mainstay of sci-fi: the handprint identification gizmo that futuristic types use for their secret hideouts.

THUNDERBIRDS are go—straight to video-store oblivion.

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