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video review out of 4

*Also starring: Brady Corbet, Soren Fulton, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles, Ron Cook, Philip Winchester, Lex Shrapnel, Dominic Colenso, Ben Torgersen

Review by Susan Granger
1 star out of 4

Based on a British TV sci-fi series that was popular back in the '60s, "Thunderbirds" is about a family of Space Age adventurers - and it seems to be aimed specifically at 10-13 year-old boys.

Patriach Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) is a billionaire-turned-astronaut who - with his four grown sons - jets around the world with a fleet of cool, high-tech vehicles called Thunderbirds on heroic missions to save people caught in natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and fires. They're known as International Rescue. Usually left behind, Tracy's youngest son, Alan (Brady Corbet) is eager to get in on the fun, so he swings into action during a school vacation when he's home and the rest of the family are otherwise occupied. Alan and his friends - geeky Fermat (Soren Fulton) and spunky Tin Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) - form a teenage team to take on The Hood (Ben Kingsley), a criminal mastermind who utilizes his telekinetic powers to seize Tracy Island and the valuable Thunderbirds. Offering assistance is a posh, pink-clad secret agent, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward (Sophia Myles) and her chauffeur/aide Parker (Ron Cook).

Screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers must have known that the original TV series was made with marionettes, which explains the wooden dialogue. Instead of utilizing more stylish disaster-rescue CGI visuals, director Jonathan Frakes ("Star Trek: Insurrection") concentrates on the stilted, retro-style "Spy Kids"-like formula. The frantic pace fails to combine action with nostalgia, although Frakes' real-life wife, former soap opera queen Genie Francis ("General Hospital"), pops up as a globe-hopping TV reporter. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Thunderbirds" is a bland, brainless 2. The gadgets are great but the concept crashes.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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