Movies — Thunderbirds (PG)

A boy-band-aged-tweener and his two one-dimensional pals seek to save their families and foil a few bank robberies in the achingly bad Thunderbirds, a live-action movie based on the 1960s-era British television show starring puppets.

Let me say that again: “1960s era British television show starring puppets.” What, do you need to be hit over the head with an anvil that says “crappy movie” on the side of it?

Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet, who looks sort of like a Backstreet Boy in the fetal stage) is the only grounded member of a superhero family that flies about the world in spaceships saving people in danger. And by grounded, I don’t mean genuine and able to put life’s great problems and questions in proper perspective. I mean, while his brothers are out there having adventures, Alan is stuck on the ground, in school.

So it’s helpful that he’s home, just in time to witness the take-over of his family’s home/secret island base by the evil villain called The Hood (Ben Kingsley). The Hood seeks to harness the assorted powers and gadgets of the Thunderbirds to (a) rob banks and (b) destroy their good name in retribution for an old slight. Also, the Hood manages to strand the Tracys in space, so that they have only a few hours of oxygenated time.

Left on earth to fight these dastardly forces are Alan and his friends, the nerdy Fermat (Soren Fulton) and Tin Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), whose sole purpose is to be a girl. Alan’s friends’ parents also have been kidnapped by The Hood. The only form of adult help, therefore, is the impeccably dressed Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) and her former-street-tough chauffer (Ron Cook).

Lady Penelope is, as characters go, completely useless. She delivers a bit of exposition and then gets herself captured. But she’s also the only cool thing about this dreadful kiddie-fare. She flies around in a pink roadster, wears well-tailored pink outfits and gives orders to her chauffer while she lounges in a bubble bath. She’s the eight-year-old girls’ version of girl-spy cool, but at least that’s something.

The rest of this movie feels like it was created during a late-night cram session and was actually filmed due to some blackmail arrangement involving pictures of a studio head in an orgy with farm animals and Al Qaida members. It’s the sort of movie that only the threat of serious public embarrassment and possible government incarceration could spur into being. It’s Spy Kids without any of the good parts.

It’s, well, a live-action movie based on the 1960s-era British television show starring puppets.

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