Patrick Smash (Bruce Cook) is a born farter and by the time he’s 9, his life is a misery. He is bullied and ridiculed at school, except by the bespectacled science prodigy, Alan A. Allen (Rupert Grint). Alan is a gizmo-ist and would-be inventor, but Patrick’s dream is to be a spaceman. Since his only notable gift is farting in excelsior, Patrick thinks his chances are slim, but Alan is more optimistic. And indeed, Patrick gets his chance to realise his dream and recognise his gift as unique – which is true of every person’s unique qualities.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Farting is the equaliser of the world, as we know, but as a subject for film, farting offers many traps. Less so, however, if the film is honest and is aimed at a smart audience of 8 – 12 year olds, who understand the true humanising value of a fart. Besides Thunderpants is not really about farting: it’s about that mysterious and elusive quality of self worth which is needed in just the right supply by us all. Too much and we’re arrogant shits. Too little and we’re miserable sods. The message is spelt out – well, spoken out – pretty clearly at the end of the film by our anti-hero, Patrick, in case anyone missed it. By then, we have been through a lot in this British comedy, from a zany birth sequence, the first flight powered by fart and even a space rocket launch powered by it, an opera with Patrick hitting the high note from behind, death …. and prison. The two child leads are untypically unsweet (this being a Brit film) and the support roles are handled with fitting bravura by classy old farts like Simon Callow, Stephen Fry and Ned Beatty, and by the edgy Paul Giamatti who is memorable from his Big Fat Liar outing as a script-thieving Hollywood producer. Here he plays a special agent sent to collect Patrick for the US Space Centre. Pete Hewitt (The Borrowers) handles Thunderpants with assurance, aware that he has to make the material offensive enough for the kids but not so offensive as to turn off the adults. Excellent production design and a big orchestral score add layers to the film and the film crackles with fun, as it takes its central character from zero to hero.
Review by Louise Keller:
I’m not going to start with puns like Thunderpants will blow you away, or thank goodness there isn’t Smellorama. That would be just too corny. Besides, Grandma wouldn’t approve. But let’s face it, this film was not made for Grandma, and the young, intended audience will no doubt be captivated. A novel adventure story for the under 12 set, Thunderpants is an old fashioned comedy about a young boy who makes his dream come true. While it may be a rather gigantic leap for Patrick Smash to go from unpopular nerd to hero astronaut, the story is told sweetly with characters often portrayed in the boo hiss villain mould. And kids act like kids. Except for Alan A. Alan, the tousled red head we met in Harry Potter, who speaks as though his mouth is full of marbles. As improbable as it may be for such a down-to-earth problem as the simple fart, to be the key to one boy’s success, the filmmakers have cleverly taken a one-joke concept and fleshed it out into a story that includes a boy genius, the world’s second best singer in search for his top note and an assorted box of liquorice allsort characters that represent varying stereotypes. The kids are well cast – Bruce Cook excels as the boy most likely to expel, while Rupert Grint is effective, although mildly irritating as the brains of the double act. Patrick is clear in his objectives. In order to achieve his dream, he needs to firstly solve his problem and then find his special gift. Of course, the moral is to play the hand you’re given and make the most of it, and the message comes across in an entertaining and pleasing way. It’s colourful, cute and there are moments that are quite funny. I imagine the intended age group will shriek with laughter for much of the film. And there’s solid support from polished thesps like Simon Callow, Stephen Fry, Paul Giamatti and Ned Beatty. A little aside: Did you know that the origin of the word fart? It seems the word comes from the Middle English, the earliest mention for which was found in the 1200s in the guise of ‘feortan’. But it also appeared in Old High German as ‘ferzan’, in Swedish as ‘fjarta’, in Middle Eastern as ‘ferten’ and there is a phonetic parallel with words of Latin derivative ‘peter’ in French and ‘pedro’ in Spanish.
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CAST: Bruce Cook, Rupert Grint, Simon Callow, Stephen Fry, Celia Imrie, Paul Giamatti, Ned Beatty
PRODUCER: Peter Hewitt, Damian Jones
DIRECTOR: Peter Hewitt
SCRIPT: Peter Hewitt, Phil Hughes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andy Collins
EDITOR: Michael Parker
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Roope
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Becker Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 12, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
VIDEO RELEASE: April 12, 2003