Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
Thunderpants Movie Poster Image
Fart jokes galore in warmhearted kids fantasy adventure.
  • PG
  • 2002
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The science is fantastical but the team of children hired by a space agency to help rescue a group of astronauts might inspire budding scientists to chase their dreams.

Positive Messages

Messages that clearly shine through include importance of being yourself, accepting what makes you different and using it for good. The power of friendship is celebrated. Intelligence and learning is also championed. Some bullying -- about weight and flatulence -- but this is clearly portrayed in a negative light.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Windy lead character Patrick overcomes the problems that his condition creates at home and school. He learns to embrace it as something that makes him special, making it work for him rather than being dragged down by it. Patrick's only friend, Alan, is eccentric, intelligent, confident. He is unashamedly smart and a great friend to Patrick.

Violence & Scariness

Occasional violence and threat, though mostly slapstick and played for laughs. Bully character punches two people in the face, ties someone to a climbing frame before other children join in, ripping off the victim's clothes and behaving abusively. A character slaps their friend's face in an attempt to calm them down. Stage light falls on an opera singer's head, killing them. A character is convicted of murder, blindfolded, put before a firing squad -- although no shots are fired. Child is pushed over by an adult. Teacher slaps pupil on the back of the head. Space flight has moment of peril.

Sexy Stuff

Frequent mild language includes "fart," "fart boy," "loser," "crap," "idiot," "arse," "farting," "farty," "freak," and "ass." "Goddamn" is also used as an exclamation. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A parent swigs from a hip flask during a doctor's appointment.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thunderpants is a comedy about an 11-year-old boy with near-ceaseless flatulence -- so expect plenty of potty humor and fart jokes. Depending on personal preference for the cheekier side of children's humor, the theme alone will decide whether this movie is for you and your family. While the theme of a gassy boy is played on heavily, the movie isn't just one-note. It is also full of heart, and carries many positive messages. The main message is accepting what makes you different and learning not just to live with it but to embrace it and realize it's what makes you unique. Intelligence is also celebrated, as is friendship -- as seen between central characters Patrick (Bruce Cook) and Alan (played by Harry Potter star Rupert Grint). Patrick is teased about his weight and his condition, with a number of the bullying scenes featuring violence; Patrick and Alan are both punched in the face. There are some scenes of threat, including Patrick being convicted of murder and put before a firing squad. There is also some sadness in Patrick's parents struggling to accept him for who he is. His father leaves them and his mother is seen swigging from a hip flask during a doctor's appointment -- this is the only alcohol use in the movie. But overall the movie's message of acceptance on a personal and societal level is a positive one.

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What's the story?

In THUNDERPANTS, young boy Patrick Smash (Bruce Cook) can't stop breaking wind. When he and his best friend, Alan (Rupert Grint), learn to harness the power of his releases, they kick-start a series of adventures that include touring the world and going into space.

Is it any good?

While the main theme might make it a no-go for some, this is a warm and loving movie that holds children in high regard. Director Peter Hewitt had absolute affection for his main duo in 1991's Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, and here he gives the same warmth to central characters Patrick Smash and Alan A. Allen. The gassy Patrick is often hilarious in his near deadpan, hangdog voice-over, while Harry Potter star Grint is superb -- in only his second feature film -- as Patrick's highly intelligent friend. Grint delivers in Alan an eccentric, singular character who is a joy to watch, with his 1930s-style transatlantic accent and wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Thunderpants plays on Patrick and Alan's quirks and eccentricities, but it is never mean or laughing at them. The only time the laughing is stifled is when school bully Damon (Joshua Herdman) tries to belittle them. The way these children are celebrated extends to the crack team of child scientists enlisted to help bring a team of astronauts home safely. It's a fantasy movie about children made entirely for children. There may be plenty of fart gags, but it's also full of important messages about acceptance, ambition, and friendship. Not for everyone's tastes, but for some, this gassy adventure will hit all the right notes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the use of humor in Thunderpants. Did you find it funny? Why might "fart jokes" not appeal to everyone? Why do different types of humor appeal to different types of people?

  • How does the movie promote curiosityperseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths to have?

  • Discuss the importance of acceptance -- of both yourself and others. How does Patrick learn to accept himself for who he is? How does this affect the way Patrick feels about himself? Why is it important to recognize and accept what makes us different?

  • Talk about the bullying that occurs in the movie. Why do you think Damon picks on Patrick? What are some positive ways to deal with a bully?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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