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A new kind of punishment for bad children
on 15 November 2005
I've always thought that most huge box-office flops usually have something to recommend them, but after the remake of Around the World in 80 Days and Thunderbirds, I'm beginning to doubt it. For those not familiar, it's based on a puppet show about a family of astronauts who use state of the art rockets, spaceships and subs to rescue people from various disasters (falling bridges, stricken planes, burning buildings, etc) each week. Well, the puppets are gone (replaced by far more lifeless teenagers), and so is the premise - only one ineptly staged rescue and a plot shamelessly ripped off from Spy Kids without any signs of imagination, wit or entertainment. Young Alan Tracey feels left out of all the rescuing we never see the other Traceys do because dad won't let him play with a real rocket until he passes his exams. Grounded on a beautiful tropical island (some punishment!), his chance to shine comes when the rest of the family - a bunch of identikit bleach-blondes who look like a gay neo-Nazi boy band without a single bit of characterisation between them - are stranded in space and he has to have the day by, er, running around the jungle, making a phone call, firing a hose at the inept comedy relief villains and dousing them in gunk for bad measure.
The good points are few and far between. One of them is that the film is mostly in focus. The other is they all got to go to the Seychelles, which looks nice.
The bad points: where to start? Ben Kingsley's career lowpoint performance? The aforementioned inept comedy relief sidekicks who would disgrace the Children's Film Foundation at its worst? The almost complete lack of action or effects in a $70m sci-fi film? The terrible script, the lifeless direction, the odious moralising? But most of all is the fact that the film is so patronising in every possible way. Forget the life lessons and off the peg sentiment, this is a movie aimed straight at the under-eights by people who know they're making a kid's movie and are constantly talking down to their intended audience, throwing in fifth-rate jokes and routines that would insult most children who had only recently mastered the art of speech. This film could replace being sent to bed early without their dinner as parents' favourite punishment for kids.
At one time the biggest flop in British film history (it didn't even cover the cost of prints and marketing), it's just about watchable if only as an object lesson in how NOT to make a summer movie.