Zoom (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Someone in a charitable mood might consider Zoom to be a kids' film. To the extent that such a label indicates there is nothing of value or interest for adults, it's apt. However, it's difficult to imagine what might appeal to a younger audience. When it comes to action, comedy, and drama, three words apply: lamer, lamer, lamest. Tim Allen, upon whose shoulders this sorry production rests, is still playing the same basic character he essayed when Tim the Tool Guy was on top of the TV ratings heap. He's Santa Claus in a leotard. This is a misfire of heroic proportions, and the only reason it's not the worst movie in theaters this weekend is because Pulse opened the same day. (Lucky film critic that I am, I got to see them back-to-back.)

There's not a single thing in Zoom that wasn't handled better in The Incredibles and/or Sky High. Retired superhero returns to save the world - check. School for superheroes in training - check. Superhero families - check. Every moment of Zoom has a "been there, done that" feeling. And, unlike the aforementioned films, which had a wry sense of humor about superhero clich├ęs, Zoom possesses an earnestness that's cloying. The film's idea of "funny" is Courteney Cox doing a pratfall or pleading with kids not to damage her mint-condition comic book collection. (She's not remotely convincing as a geekette, in case you're wondering.)

Jack Shepard, a.k.a. Captain Zoom (Allen), has been enjoying retirement for 30 years when the government - led by scientist Marsha Holloway (Cox), supervisor Dr. Grant (Chevy Chase), and General Larraby (Rip Torn) - elects to draft him back into service. His task: take four raw recruits and help them achieve the most out of their powers so they can face super nemesis Concussion (Kevin Zegers), who is about to return from exile in another dimension. Jack is initially reluctant, but the promise of a $500,000 paycheck convinces him otherwise. His charges are little Cindy Collins (annoying Ryan Newman), who can lift a 2.5-ton weight in either hand; pre-teen Tucker Williams (Spencer Breslin), who can inflate parts of his body; teenager Summer Jones (Kate Mara), who has mind powers; and soulful leader Dylan West (Michael Cassidy), who can turn invisible at will. Captain Zoom may have lost his Flash-like powers, but he intends to pass on his knowledge to the others, as long as they don't expect too much.

Not expecting too much is the right way to approach Zoom. You'll still be disappointed, but at least it won't be a crushing blow. Then again, the presence of has-been (or should that be "never really was") comedian Chevy Chase in the cast should be a tip-off that something's amiss. As has too often been the case, Chase runs through unfunny gag after unfunny gag until we're sure he's failing on purpose. Unfortunately, he's not the only one whose would-be jokes are as enjoyable as silent flatulence - that comment applies to everyone from Allen to Cox to the under-20 co-stars to Rip Torn (whom I still haven't forgiven for appearing in Freddy Got Fingered).

Zoom is director Peter Hewitt's follow-up to Garfield, which says all that needs to be said about the current state of the filmmaker's career. He is apparently stuck in a rut making infantile movies about comic book characters, although Garfield is more animated than anyone in Zoom. One might expect this movie to show some degree of knowledge about comic book superheroes, but there's little evidence of it in the final product. There's also no character depth, probably because adding some might depress the chipper mood. Indications of dark doings in Jack's past (his brother, whose mind was addled by gamma radiation, destroyed an entire team of heroes, including Jack's girlfriend) are swept under the rug soon after they are mentioned. Zoom is a maze of wrong turns and dead ends. When the exit comes in sight, only about 80 minutes after things started, it's tough to fight the urge to run, not walk, to the lighted promise that the experience is over.

Zoom (United States, 2006)

Run Time: 1:25
U.S. Release Date: 2006-08-11
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Nothing Objectionable)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1