A live-action update of the 1960s puppet-animation sci-fi-adventure TV show, retooled to appeal to the youngest moviegoers. Widowed billionaire former astronaut Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) lives on a tropical South Seas island with his five sons, Scott (Philip Winchester), Virgil (Dominic Colenso), Gordon (Ben Torgersen), John (Lex Shrapnel) and Alan (Brady Corbet). Aided by their Emma Peel manqué, sexy superspy Penelope Creighton-Ward (Sophia Myles), and armed with a fleet of futuristic vehicles an orbiting satellite station (Thunderbird 5), two rockets (Thunderbirds 1 and 3), a rescue craft (Thunderbird 2) and a submarine (Thunderbird 4) their International Rescue team is ready to save lives at a moment's notice. All except Alan, who has to finish school before Dad will let him become a full-fledged member of the unit. Alan gets his chance when "The Hood" (Ben Kingsley), who has mind-control powers and a ferocious grudge against Jeff, concocts a decoy emergency that lures the adult Tracys to Thunderbird 5 then occupies Tracy Island with an eye to using their gadgets to rob banks, simultaneously enriching himself and besmirching their reputation. Alan; his brainy friend Fermat (Soren Fulton), whose father (Anthony Edwards) creates the Thunderbirds' technology; and pretty TinTin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), whose parents work for the Tracys, must rescue their families and thwart the villain's evil plans. Ironically, though the original series starred a cast of odd-looking marionettes (made in "Supermarionation!"), their adventures were played for maximum seriousness and could be enjoyed by parents and children alike. The movie has been dumbed down and larded with transparent messages about teamwork, loyalty and doing the right thing until only the least-sophisticated children will be able to tolerate its inanities. Adults must cling to such cruel shreds of entertainment as Kingsley's ridiculous turn in Fu Manchu drag. The production design is phenomenal, reproducing the series' swinging '60s decor and techno-geek flourishes, from the launch pad under the swimming pool to Lady Penelope's pink roadster, which turns into a mini-plane. But though Paxton immerses himself in Jeff Tracy's patriarchal squareness and emerges dignity intact, his older sons look more like boy-band rejects than action heroes; all five spend most of the film trapped aboard the crippled Thunderbird 5, out of sight and largely out of mind while the youngsters hog the limelight.
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