Say what you will about the Spy Kids trilogy and its sometimes wildly incoherent storylines, but at least those films had an infectiously childlike spirit that felt very age-appropriate. Watching them, you got the impression that director Robert Rodriguez and the children in his employ had a blast playing with their toys in the cinema sandbox. As with all things successful, the Spy Kids movies spawned a number of imitators, and the dullest and lamest of the lot so far may be Thunderbirds, a live-action remake of the televised marionette show from the mid-1960s. Once again, regular children have to save their super-agent parents from some sort of villain, but Thunderbirds has nothing to offer in place of the surrealism and Latino cool that made Spy Kids so much fun; instead of a playful romp, the film has the workmanlike feel of a project that everyone did just for the paycheck.
Thunderbirds is directed by Jonathan Frakes, who certainly knows his way around science fiction movies based on TV shows, having directed his castmates in two of the Star Trek films (one of which, the Borg-battling First Contact, was easily the best Trek flick of the past dozen years). However, his strengths in this area may actually be a liability when it comes to this film; the high-octane special effects, and the deadly serious way in which he directs certain scenes of peril, work against the film's efforts to be a whimsical night out for the family.
Fans of the original series may be dismayed to find that the Thunderbirds rescue team itself is largely shut out of the story; as with the first Mission: Impossible film, so here: a movie based on a classic show about a team basically ditches the team so it can focus on a single protagonist. All of the ...1
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