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A great example of the immense, cultural divide between Canada and the United States is the 1960's kids TV show from England called Thunderbirds. Just about every kid in Canada has watched this show. Even my friend's kids watch it now. But in the United States, I get blank stares when I mention it. But now Thunderbirds is a major motion picture. I guess it's no different than all the obscure comic book heroes who have been transferred to the big screen recently. I mean, who had heard of Hellboy before the movie came out. Thunderbirds tells the story of an ex-astronaut, Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) and his sons, who run the super-secret organization, International Rescue, from their remote south-seas island. The youngest Tracy son (Brady Corbet) is at school, pining to join his older brothers. The Tracy's are assisted by the Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles), her chauffeur (Ron Cook) and Brains (Anthony Edwards). Meanwhile, The Hood (Ben Kingsley) is plotting his revenge on the Thunderbirds. He takes over the island after marooning the Tracys on their damaged space station (Thunderbird 5), leaving the youngest Tracy to come to the rescue with the help of his friends, Fermat (Soren Fulton) and Tin Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens).
The new movie is pretty true to the original TV show. The opening sequence has been jazzed up but hasn't changed much and they even have the original theme song. And Thunderbirds 1 through 5 look just the same. Plus, radio communications are still ended with F.A.B. The biggest change is that Thunderbirds has been retooled to be more like Spy Kids. The youngest of the Tracy brothers is now a young teenager and has two friends, Tin-Tin and a new character, Fermat (Last Theorem?) who is Brains' son. The casting is good. Most of the characters look quite a bit like the original puppets. Whoever thought to cast Anthony Edwards as Brains must have just seen his classic role in Revenge of the Nerds. At one point, The Hood makes Brains walk like a puppet. The kids are pretty good but they don't quite measure up to the original Spy Kids, Carmen and Juni. Bill Paxton and Ben Kingsley are not over taxed in their roles here. Kingsley signed on for this part at the behest of his kids. But, Sophia Myles has a lot of fun as Lady Penelope.
For trivia buffs, the newscaster, seen throughout the movie covering the Thunderbirds, is Genie Francis, best known as Laura of Luke and Laura fame on General Hospital, and also the real-life wife of Jonathan Frakes. Frakes, best known as Commander Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation, is the director of Thunderbirds. He does a workman-like job and keeps the movie moving right along. But the movie is not that thrilling aside from seeing the Thunderbirds in action. It's definitely worth seeing if you like Thunderbirds, but if you have never heard of them, you might want to just rent one of the Spy Kids movies. They are all much better and more imaginative than Thunderbirds.