Thunderpants (2002) – movie review

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Movie Reviews by Vivienne Messenger and Reece De Ville

Starring: Bruce Cook, Rupert Grint, Simon Callow, Paul Giamatti, Ned Beatty

Director: Peter Hewitt

Review by Vivienne Messenger

THUNDERPANTS is an uplifting tale of a boy, Patrick Smash (Bruce Cook) struggling through life who finally finds his true destiny. Born with what we later discover is a medical phenomenon – ‘his gift’ – he suffers with chronic flatulence – in other words he farts constantly, even though he eats a restrictive diet to try and reduce these emissions!

His father, unable to cope rapidly departs leaving his family alone, Patrick suffers miserably at the hands of both the school bullies and the teachers who are anything but understanding. So his life would be intolerable except for his true friend, Alan A Allen (Rupert Grint), a boy genius who has no sense of smell. They team up together and this special friendship sees them through the bad times. Using Alan’s brains and Patrick’s ‘gift’ the adventure that eventually unfolds reach unimaginable heights of achievement well above most people’s dreams.

A comedy that entertains most of the way through, THUNDERPANTS is a little drawn out towards the end. Also the continuity seemed a bit poor in places. With three children in tow (plus two adults for extra support) the nine year-old in the party thoroughly enjoyed herself and was able to understand it all. The two boys approaching 5 needed things explained in places and got fidgety towards the close, so it’s probably more aimed at children seven and up, but anything to do with farting is usually a sure winner with kids.

The two young actors playing the lead roles of Patrick and Alan (Bruce Cook and Rupert Grint), were very good and there were many other familiar faces in the movie that help it to succeed. Simon Callow as Sir John Osgood the founder of the music school he attends, Stephen Fry as Sir Anthony Silk QC, Paul Giamatti as Johnson J Johnson who heads up the FBI contingent spying on the boys and Ned Beatty as Ed Sheppard the US Space Centre chief, all act their parts to perfection.

So with that half term holiday looming on the horizon, THUNDERPANTS is a movie well worth catching for the right age group.

3 out of 6 stars

Review by Reece De Ville

Warning! This review contains various references to the ‘f’ word.

Kids love farts. Kids love farts more than ice cream and Alton Towers. They’re simple, cost no money and in some cases hang around even longer than the Bee Gees. It’s this potential comic goldmine that director Peter Hewitt (THE BORROWERS) attempts to tap into with THUNDERPANTS.

Oh where to start. The story of how young Patrick Smash (Cook) learns to harness his ‘gift’ of extreme flatulence with the help of boffin friend Alan A Allen (Grint) had scope to be a guilty pleasure for both children and adult’s alike. Hell, farting worked for SHREK. Through a series of ‘madcap’ adventures, Patrick learns to harness his abilities through the advice of the world’s second best opera singer (Callow) and to representatives (Giamatti and Beatty) of a space agency not unlike NASA.

There is much to admire in the world Hewitt has created onscreen. The period setting is an odd mix of styles from various decades, although mainly taking inspiration from the 1950’s. The musical score also complements the style of the film ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous as the story hurtles along from one ridiculous scenario to the next. However, this work is undermined by a script that is lazy at best, with the bulk of the stories humour relying on the audience finding the noise of a fart hilarious for the 50 th time. The film’s attempts to relay a message about ‘finding and making the most of what you are best at’ is clunky at best and seems to be tacked on at the end to try to justify the previous 80 odd minutes of methane induced antics.

I think it would also be a cop out to excuse the film any problems, because it’s a ‘children’s film’. The beauty of other ‘children’s films’ like TOY STORY, SHREK, and perhaps even STUART LITTLE is that they don’t talk down to the children. The scripts are well written with characters that all ages can relate to. THUNDERPANTS stretches the one joke too far over it’s relatively brief running time, and doesn’t have the inclusion of jokes for the mums and dads that no doubt will be dragged along to see it. In fact, I noticed that the children in the cinema watching the film only laughed once or twice, and quickly got bored of the various farting noises.

Overall, I really did try to sit back and just take the film for what it was obviously trying to be. A fun little film for all the family. And, I’m no doubt sure it’ll find a cult following in years to come. In the end, I think it’s the cinematic equivalent of a whoopee cushion: Looks great in the packet, there’s anticipation as it gets blown up, but the thrill is gone in less than a few seconds.

2 out of 6 stars