In adapting the 1960s Supermarionation-animated British TV show as a live-action kids’ movie, Universal hasn’t kept that much, but at least the show’s fabulous retro catchphrase ”F-A-B!” rides again in Thunderbirds. Consisting of five rocket-ship-flying young men and their widowed billionaire ex-astronaut father Jeff (a clench-jawed Bill Paxton), the film’s ”International Rescue” team lets loose ”F-A-B!”s like crazy over the course of the film, and without fail its upbeat cheesy wholesomeness is always good for a smile.
Long may ”F-A-B!” live on, even as this mild update slips into the movie-history remainder bin. In a transparent attempt at attracting the youth vote (or at least all the tykes who saw the ”Spy Kids” films), the movie strands Paxton and his four oldest on a spaceship and leaves it to a high-fiving trio of uninteresting kids, including Brady Corbet as Paxton’s youngest son, to prove their mettle as Thunderbirds. This involves fighting a red-eyed, kimono-wearing devil named the Hood, played by Ben Kingsley, who channels ”Flash Gordon”’s Ming the Merciless and ”Temple of Doom”’s Mola Ram but not a PG-rated smidgen of his former F-A-B self as the baddie in ”Sexy Beast.”